As happened last year at this time, I’m reading quite a few looking-back articles now about the worldviews of 1969, half a century ago. Maybe this happens all the time, and I’m just now reaching the point where I remember a lot from 50 years ago.
It was in May of 1969 that we moved from southern California to Arizona, my dad moving into hospital administration and taking a nice new job. A couple of months later, we watched the moon landing in our rented west Phoenix home.
But I remember a lot more. My awareness of the broader world was starting to grow. I’d already been through three political assassinations. I was aware that the culture was changing. I’d heard about hippies. I was vaguely aware of Richard Nixon and how some grownups I knew felt about him (they weren’t positive, although this was California, his home state; I appropriated my parents’ similar negative opinions about Reagan at about the same point in time). I was just beginning to pay attention, but sure. Fifty years ago? I was there.
Some of these involved predictions, which makes for splashy headlines but not much substance. Nobody nailed the future in 1969; no one ever does. The right people aren’t usually asked for their predictions, I suspect, people who are interested in this subject (and probably align more with sociology than any other discipline—my guess only). Science fiction writers give us tantalizing stuff, some of it right on the mark, some naïve or just badly off base. Politicians, philosophers, economists—they’re about as useful as astrologers, although more interesting to read. They didn’t see what was coming, and I assume they don’t now.
I’m as entertained as anyone when someone from the past got something right about the future, don’t get me wrong. It’s just rare, and easy to take out of context. Lots of people imagined systems that look suspiciously like the internet. I’d wouldn’t be surprised to read some bold soul 50 years ago projecting broad acceptance of homosexuality, although it would have been pretty bold (it was still classified as mental illness, and was viewed by a majority, I think, as a sexual perversion, no different than exhibitionism or pedophilia).
But no one put both of these things together, and you can’t separate the way (and with the speed) we receive information and changing norms and attitudes.
Anyway. I made an attempt last year to bookmark predictions for 2018, just to see, and I wasn’t surprised. I’m tempted to say it’s always a fool’s game to make predictions, only to amuse Gordon Atkinson if he stopped by (he loves malapropisms and their like; a mug’s game, a fool’s errand, get it straight people), but I’ll just note that I’m not interested in playing that game.
It’s similar to a comment I make a lot these days, mostly to my wife. I see people every day—every day—fall for some scam or hoax or pointless exercise in clicking on Facebook and other social media. I used to think that correcting these things with my friends and family was part of the common good, cleaning up everyone’s timeline, but nobody wises up. Anybody can get fooled once or twice, got it, probably has happened to me and I’ve conveniently forgotten.
But there’s a degree of magical thinking in a lot of this (win a free iPad! Click “Like” and the picture will do something amazing), so, whatever. Not enough time in the world to police, and it’s obnoxious anyway.
I’m just amused by the idea that someone who appears to honestly believe that there’s some secret to seeing more posts on Facebook, for an example, and they pass around this “trick,” which has been repeatedly exposed as nonsense (particularly by Facebook people). Not a big deal, I ignore, but these people also expect me to pay attention to their opinions about politics. For example. Sorry, but if you believe that video clip is real (it’s from a 1997 movie), I’m not interested in your thoughts on the national debt.
Gregg Rosenthal wrote a piece back on Sept. 3 for NFL.com about what the final week of the NFL season would look like. It’s a great example, although done tongue-in-cheek (sports predictions are usually the most certain—Eagles to WIN IT ALL—and at the same time understood to be completely worthless).
As for me, I can’t work up the energy to prophesy, even about trivial things. I think my Seahawks have a good chance to beat the Cowboys tomorrow night in Dallas, although nowhere near a slam dunk. I think they have almost no chance of going further. I think A Star Is Born will be the big winner at the Oscars, and I haven’t even seen it (or most of the other probable contenders). Pay no attention to me.