It is not uncommon for friends and strangers alike to ask me why I see a future more ominous than they could ever imagine. Jack, your positions seem extreme given what we know, and your scenarios appear to be better suited for a Tom Clancy novel than a political blog.
Here is my answer: all I do is take what we know, what the trends are, apply historical lessons, and then determine what the outcome may be. I call it projecting; projecting where current trends will lead us if not interrupted. In my first sentence, I used the word imagine intentionally since the process requires you to use your imagination a little to step outside of your current reality and see all possible futures.
I will get into some specifics in a minute, but if it helps you accept my method, you can work this process in reverse. Your current reality is known to you at this time, but what events or decisions brought you to this point? Go back step by step and see how the decisions you made 5 years ago affect where you are today. If you knew 5 years ago that the decisions you were making then would put you where you are today, would you still have made them?
Here is a stripped down example. Today you are being treated for lung cancer, the probable cause being your smoking habit. You know the result now so all you have to do is retrace your steps 5 years. Five years ago you knew where science was on this issue. You had been smoking for 20 years, but you finally paid attention to the warnings starting in 2007. At that point, you knew your habit was dangerous and could possibly cause major health problems for you in the future. You had access to data that showed how long term smoking increased the chance of dying from a heart attack or lung cancer. All of the information necessary to make a decision was available to you then.
If you had taken that information and stopped to imagine the pain and suffering you are experiencing now, would you have continued to smoke? If you saw yourself undergoing an operation to remove one of your lungs, would your decision making process have been any different? Five minutes of projecting your future five years ago may have saved you from your current reality.
Let’s make the exercise a little more difficult. You are now living in a gang infested neighborhood that has deteriorated over the last two decades. Graffiti on almost every wall, abandoned homes that are used as crack houses, block after block of homes that have not been maintained, and no businesses that are brave enough to remain to service the community.
Start working backwards and look at the steps that led a stable middle-class neighborhood to decline into the blighted hellhole that you now call home. How many warning signs did you see along the way? Can you identify the significant milestones that may have been a warning sign of the change that would occur? If you knew the first sign of graffiti and the few gang members hanging out on a street corner would result in what you are experiencing now, would you have taken steps to help correct the problem or maybe move before it got any worse?
I use this example because across America, neighborhoods are experiencing the repeat of a destructive process that nobody identifies until it is too late to correct. Citizens within those communities refuse to believe it could happen to them even though they have watched it happen to hundreds of neighborhoods in dozens of states, and they are witnessing the same warning signs that were evident at the beginning of the decline elsewhere.
Using the warning signs available and the history of other similar neighborhoods, all a person has to do is project how their neighborhood will change over the next few years. All that is necessary is a little imagination applied to what they currently know. The hard part then is convincing others in the neighborhood how things will turn out.
Working backwards is a warmup for the exercise of projecting forward. I suggest that everyone spend a little time practicing both.
Back to the point of this whole conversation. I use this process constantly to project where current events and historical lessons will lead our country and the world. And, like the homeowner that tries to convince his neighbors that their community will be a slum in twenty years, I meet resistance when I claim that our country faces an extreme threat from Islamic terror groups. I am criticized for projecting forward to a point in time when the threat will be recognized by all; a point in time when it will be too late to correct the problem.
The amount of current information available is staggering, we only have to look at events in Europe to see how entire countries have been changed forever. We listen to daily warnings coming from the Middle East and Europe about terror actions and intent, and we witness daily the application of radical ideologies within segments of the Islamic community .
And like the neighbor that argues the future path of his neighborhood, our citizens refuse to believe that the terror that is commonplace elsewhere could become commonplace in our country.
Take what you now know, look at the effects of these same facts in a historical context, listen to the words of terror leaders as they describe their version of our future, and look at our country and the world with eyes wide open. Then, close your eyes and let your mind use these tools to transport you to the possible scenarios of the future. If circumstances do not change, what is the future reality that you have projected?
Now ask yourself if the future is something to be concerned with. Welcome to my reality.
by Jack Woodward 5/29/12