News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Vision of the Future?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Vision of the Future?

The UK's Ministry of Defense has issued a 30-year look into the future. While it tries to put a god face on it, the threats posed by climate change, globalization, and rising inequality add a jittery edge to their prognostications.

Lenin's Tomb highlights some of the more important findings, at least with regard to political developments:


"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".

Pressures leading to social unrest

By 2010 more than 50% of the world's population will be living in urban rather than rural environments, leading to social deprivation and "new instability risks", and the growth of shanty towns. By 2035, that figure will rise to 60%. Migration will increase. Globalisation may lead to levels of international integration that effectively bring inter-state warfare to an end. But it may lead to "inter-communal conflict" - communities with shared interests transcending national boundaries and resorting to the use of violence.

Population and Resources

The global population is likely to grow to 8.5bn in 2035, with less developed countries accounting for 98% of that. Some 87% of people under the age of 25 live in the developing world. Demographic trends, which will exacerbate economic and social tensions, have serious implications for the environment - including the provision of clean water and other resources - and for international relations. The population of sub-Saharan Africa will increase over the period by 81%, and that of Middle Eastern countries by 132%.

The Middle East

The massive population growth will mean the Middle East, and to a lesser extent north Africa, will remain highly unstable, says the report. It singles out Saudi Arabia, the most lucrative market for British arms, with unemployment levels of 20% and a "youth bulge" in a state whose population has risen from 7 million to 27 million since 1980. "The expectations of growing numbers of young people [in the whole region] many of whom will be confronted by the prospect of endemic unemployment ... are unlikely to be met," says the report.

Islamic militancy

Resentment among young people in the face of unrepresentative regimes "will find outlets in political militancy, including radical political Islam whose concept of Umma, the global Islamic community, and resistance to capitalism may lie uneasily in an international system based on nation-states and global market forces", the report warns. The effects of such resentment will be expressed through the migration of youth populations and global communications, encouraging contacts between diaspora communities and their countries of origin.

Tension between the Islamic world and the west will remain, and may increasingly be targeted at China "whose new-found materialism, economic vibrancy, and institutionalised atheism, will be an anathema to orthodox Islam".
While this isn't exactly end-of-the world apocalypticism, it does pose interesting questions about what a future-oriented theology might look like. Whose side you gonna be on when the State institutes martial law and the hordes bang at the iron gates of fortress America?

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