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The International Writers Magazine: 2008 -Storms Ahead?

It's a Mad World
James Skinner


Before I plunged into the essence of this report that, as the title implies revolves round my feelings about the year we are leaving and the one we are about to enter, I thought I would retrieve a slice of cinema history of a film made in 1963 which was called precisely that: ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’.
The script has nothing to do with international politics or climate change, nor does it deal with the advance of technology or the creeping threat of terrorism. It’s a comedy or perhaps a longwinded farce about a hidden booty in Florida that is sought after by a mixed bunch of treasure hunters eager to earn a quick million. The reason this film comes to mind is because one particular actor, Spencer Tracy more or less ended his brilliant career interpreting the ‘cop’ chasing the bad guys all the way across the USA. Tracy died three years later completing the life cycle of a human being like all us mortals will eventually end up doing. Sound’s morbid but it is the truth. It reflects what life is all about. Switching from one year to the next is just another episode in time that moves us closer to our own final destiny; the change over dates from the 31st of December to the 1st of January a mere reminder. So how does one focus on these mythical dates as a split second of past and future? There are two aspects to consider. One is personal and the other is ‘global’.

All humans are individually a world apart; when an event, any event takes place that affects a sector of a particular society it could mean a tragedy for one human or an insignificant mishap for another. Take a simple road accident involving the cars of a taxi driver and an important businessman. For the former, driving a taxi is the means of earning a living and may cost the taxi driver a few days of unemployment; whilst the latter will probably be a call to his secretary to sort out the problem. Another case could be the massive flooding of a particular area of the civilised world whereby hundreds of houses are destroyed and families left homeless. A simple missing clause in the insurance policy could mean desolation for one family whilst the inclusion would represent eventual financial coverage for another. A death is always a trauma but again, it depends on circumstances as well as family relationships. An elderly person that dies in an accident will cause far more grief that someone who passes away after weeks or months of suffering due to an illness. These are microscopic examples of life in an opulent society. Tragedies in other parts of the world, due to war, poverty, climatic catastrophe or any other event that change the humble life of a human being dramatically are a synergy of the same sentiments felt by those in safer environments. A mother in a Colombian village will grieve with equal sorrow over the death of her child as that of one in a European capital.

But there is also the bright side of life which is equally shared around the globe. Joy is present whenever a happy event takes place such as a wedding or a new job in Germany. Similarly, the installation of a new water system in a tiny village in Africa will bring on the same feeling of happiness.

Such is the personal side of all human life that always existed as we look back and remember the past and begins to reflect on forthcoming years ahead that life will continue in a similar manner.

But what about the global aspects within the same equation; how do we feel about what’s being going on and what lies in store for us in the coming year? We enter into a much more composite and confusing area of reflection on events, with the underlying common denominator that ‘there is not much we, individually could have or will be able to do about it!’ This can be both frustrating and frightening.

There isn’t a sector of the world media, political arenas, institutions, corporations, associations and, not forgetting, religious entities that is not at this moment in time compiling masses of information and speculative opinions on what has gone on in the last 12 months and what to expect in the future; and most important of all: ‘What to do about it!’ ‘Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen!’ From economics to technology, from climate changes to wars, from medical advances to geopolitical reshuffles, the world has and is going through one of the most dramatic upheavals in history. Not only is it frightening but it is also fascinating. How can one sum up in a couple of thousand words the activity that has and will take place that is and will change the face of this earth beyond belief?
OK, let’s try. How about this as a brief summary:

Politics:
USA is in for a change. They’ve been hammered too much by all sides of the outside world. They need to make friends.
Europe is in a similar position. New members to the Union and those waiting to come in are part of the equation whilst the binding together in the form of some sort of constitution needs to be sorted out otherwise they will all break apart.
Latin America is in turmoil. One sector thrives for a new form of anti-American socialist order whilst the other looks the other way. Let’s hope they don’t become too self-destructive.
Middle East needs no assessment. It speaks for itself with democracy fighting on one side and Islamic fundamentalism on the other. This includes part of the Far East.
The Far East is speeding along the motorway breaking all the speed limits. Watch this space but don't breath the air.
Africa is synonymous to tragedy. Wars, famine, poverty, illness and above all corruption thrive throughout the continent. Is there any hope? There better be because this continent is the future. There is no doubt about it.

Technology and communications:
The information world is not only going down the motorway breaking the speed limit it is also beginning to leave the tarmac and depart into outer space. All Pc’s that are over 12 months old are obsolete. That goes for all the peripherals such as printers, scanners, floppy disks and other niceties. Television and its hardware are in for the chop! The phone system has been turned on its head. Fixed lines are out and mobiles are in. They do absolutely everything short of feeding you. But above all, they will change the political scenario of the world ahead. Enter ‘I’ reporting. Again, watch this space! As for the Internet; as shown on Euro News: No comment!
Transport is in for surprises; internal combustion engine out, electric motor in. Don’t need to expand any further.
The medical sector is half way. It has also gone commercial. Prefabricated babies, replacement body parts and heaven only know what is coming next, are all in the pipeline. Yet it is still far away from curing many, many diseases and illnesses that continue to harass human life. It is light years away from planning a decent and sick free ‘departure’ date, although euthanasia is poking its ugly head around the corner.
Bio is the new buzz word! Biology, physics and chemistry have all been included in a sort of witch’s cauldron that will recycle the world beneath, level and above the oceans let alone all its ingredients.

War:
There is only one war going on and that is ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’. It was in the past; it was in 2007 and will continue into 2008 and beyond.
Law and order:
This one is simple. We have democracy based on human rights and freedom, and we have the Sharia or Islamic law. The world is divided between the two with the odd dictatorship thrown in for kicks. And then we have the United Nations that is trying its hardest to act as the world watchdog between all three.
Climate:
Al Gore for World president! That is the request of a great deal of earthly beings; not all necessarily human! Sectors of the human race however, feel that his report is a load of bunk! One thing is for real. There is going to be a great deal of worldwide focus on climatic effects and changes from now on. I’m quoting the obvious!
Economy:
What’s that? How can you describe world economics in about three lines? Everything that humans do affect their pockets that in turn affects their neighbour. And so the chain reaction continues across all boundaries from villages to cities, from cities to countries and from countries to continents. Just look at the guru buzz words for a moment that hide the real story: prime-rate, inflation, share price index, bonds, mortgage default, gross domestic product. I like this last one, it sounds sexy! But what do they all mean? They are simply part of the gobbledygook vocabulary used by those who don’t really understand economics anyway. The summary is that at one point in time the world feels good and rich whereas at another it’s down in the dumps. It’s known as cyclical changes. At this moment we are at one of the crossroads if you know what I mean. The price of bread is on the rise and Joe’s pay check is not! What more can I say!
You’ll notice that this small attempt at a globalisation forecast points blame fingers at no one in particular. There is a good reason. We all inhabit the same large ping pong ball called Earth and we are all in it together; for better or for worse. As per Doris Day’s hit song: ‘Que sera sera. What ever will be, will be! The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera!’ That was 50 years ago!
Happy New Year!

© James Skinner - January 2008.
jamesskinner@cemiga.es

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