In my younger days and toward the end of a calendar year, one of the many conversations when gathered with family and friends would be “where did we see ourselves in the future.” We would make projections of progress in our personal lives and predictions for the world we inhabited…fantasies of robots, tech advances, underwater roadways, space travel, a cure for cancer, an end to deforestation, elimination of war, poverty reduction, preservation of our natural resources, equality for all as one human race and so on. Imagining the future was perhaps our way of grappling with change in the present. We envisioned our lives, and through our lens of progress we painted an optimistic canvas for the world we inhabited.
In hindsight, I realize our vision for the future was bifurcated into putting ourselves at the center of everything and fighting for the togetherness of the world. Together we marched for peace, against wars, against racism, against inequalities. We spoke out for human rights, for clean water, deforestation and climate crisis. We demanded recognition for indigenous people and the release of the kidnapped. We raised our voices, held strikes and sit-ins and held rallies all in the name of peace and love. In our young and passionate strife, we believed that reason would lead to a world free from war and terror; that society and mankind would move toward putting an end to discrimination and turn the corner on the urgent challenges of the environment.
Were we triumphant? We may have made substantial “progress” in preventing what could have been worse, but to say we won would be a mistake. Our only triumph was our stubborn persistence. Because reason may never fully rule man; violence may never be eradicated; social, personal, and intellectual problems will always exist; crime will always be with us no matter how rich, educated, or socially caring we become; and environmental concerns remain mired in processes that take too long to resolve. Does that mean we lower our expectations of what the future can be? I think NOT
There is no doubt that today we face a particularly tough set of challenges especially as we begin to catch our breath and build upon the imposed life-style balance after two years of a Covid-19 pandemic. That said, the countless challenges we faced showed us just how resilient and adaptable we could be. Many experienced losses, never to be replaced. Despite that, we did our best to get through each day and set some higher expectations for the year 2022.
Today, the world we live in relies heavily on the advances of science (which gave rise to the fastest vaccines approved and administered to millions in the fight against Covid). We depend on the speed of technology in ways of education and learning. Internet, computers and social media, video conferencing tools, and mobile apps have become the silver bullet for connecting with the world at our fingertips. With the advances of science and the expansion of technology, the future is in our hands. We shape it. We are the participants, whether we passively accept the old and unsustainable business-as-usual route or embrace change by implementing new models that deliver brighter futures for society, business, people and the culture in which they operate. We face huge challenges, but with a positive and open, empathetic mindset; with a commitment and a profound sense of community so powerful as to compensate for the difficulties of the year and time lost, we can shape a future that brings us much closer to an ideal. This means that each of us, through the choices we make and actions we take in governments, companies and as individuals, is accountable in determining the direction of the future of society in the world we inhabit.
And in the years to come, people of the future will be able to see where our actions have led. Did we reduce poverty? Have we halted the wave of famine that sweeps the world of our time? Is homelessness no longer an issue? Have we met our climate pledge and reduced global warming to an insignificant degree? Is forest destruction a thing of the past? Does everyone have water? And did we shelve the bullet and bomb to invest in peace?
As for me, I have narrowed my vision of the future to one year at a time. As I approach the Christmas season and look ahead to 2022, knowing that all things are possible, I will embrace the New Year with an open heart and a fierce spirit.
May God bless you all with a safe, healthy, and joyous New Year.