Contam que o matemático Paul Erdos costumava vira e mexe chamar seus desafetos de facistas. Um dia, xingou até um gato de facista. "Mas como um gato pode ser facista?", lhe perguntaram. Ele respondeu: pergunte a opinião do rato...
LEFT VERSUS RIGHT
defined the 20th
defined the 20th
100 Prospect contributors answered our invitation to respond to the question on the left in no more than 250 words. An edited selection of their responses is printed here — the rest are on our website. (Thanks to John Brockman for allowing us to borrow his Edge website idea). The pessimsm of the responses is striking: almost nobody expects the world to get better in the coming decades, and many predict it will get much worse.
Anthony Giddens, sociologist
“The future isn’t what it used to be,” George Burns once said. And he was right. This century we are peering over a precipice, and it’s an awful long way down. We have unleashed forces into the world that it is not certain that we can control. We may have already done so much damage to the planet that by the end of the century people will live in a world ravaged by storms, with large areas flooded and others arid. But you have to add in nuclear proliferation, and new diseases that we might have inadvertently created. Space might become militarised. The emergence of mega-computers, allied to robotics, might at some point also create beings able to escape the clutches of their creators. Against that, you could say that we haven’t much clue what the future will bring, except it’s bound to be things that we haven’t even suspected. Twenty years ago, Bill Gates thought there was no future in the internet. The current century might turn out much more benign than scary. As for politics, left and right aren’t about to disappear—the metaphor is too strongly entrenched for that. My best guess about where politics will focus would be upon life itself. Life politics concerns the environment, lifestyle change, health, ageing, identity and technology. It may be a politics of survival, it may be a politics of hope, or perhaps a bit of both.
Todd Gitlin, sociologist
The coming cleavage is between zealots and realists. Zealots think the world will yield to their strenuous, righteous will. These include Islamists, utopian free traders, neoconservatives, purists of all stripes. Realists think that you work with the world you have, not the world you wish you had. Realists are often greyer, more lethargic. They look for non-zero-sum games, buildings constructed from crooked timbers. Zealots are, well, thrillingly zealous about their final solutions.