Prophecies of doom

Prepare to be scared.

Most of us realise we live in a dangerous world – every day we wake up to news of one catastrophe after another: bomb explosions, rampaging gunmen, coups, forest fires etc. Where the cause of these disasters is natural (earthquakes, floods) there is not much the authorities can do about it, appart from taking some preventive measures. But in the case of man-made catastrophes, such as terrorist attacks, cataclysmic economic failures, the refugee crisis – it is amazing that every single time the authorities appear stumped and stupefied. They seem to find even perceptible problems impossible to predict; and, when something does happens, they try to bolt the stable door after the proverbial horse has fled, making speeches of regret and apology, and promising to alleviate the victims’ sufferings (unreliably) and manage things better next time (improbably).

To my knowledge, nobody had predicted the three major disasters of the last fifteen years (the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, and the Arab Spring uprising in 2011), despite the existence of (highly-paid) analysts and think-tanks. On the other hand, when people make predictions, they often prove unfounded. For instance, P. Kennedy in his book The rise and fall of the great powers’, had foreseen the decline of the USA. Instead, Russia disintegrated, leaving the USA as the dominant world power.

 

Soothing swan photo
Soothing swan photo

 

In an article written for the Books’ Journal, Greek professor P. K. Ioakimidis points all this out, and goes on to anticipate some possible major threats for the years to come:

The disintegration of the EU, which is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, enhanced by Brexit (see J. R. Gillingham’s ‘The EU, an obituary’).

An attack from Russia on Europe. Unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible (given Putin’s exploits in the Ukraine, Crimea and Georgia).

Nuclear war involving the US, Russia and China. A nightmarish scenario, but can an accident be precluded?

Use of the atom bomb by terrorists. Another apocalyptic development, should they happen to get hold of a dirty bomb and unleash it on a major capital city.

Revolution or civil war in China. China is going through a difficult transition, with all the dangers this entails. And the country is too big to be totally controllable.

Civil war in India, between Muslims and Hindus. This would cause huge repercussions worldwide because of the enormous population.

Revolution in Saudi Arabia, which is a very closed society with hidden undercurrents.

The globalization of the Islam conflict with the West.

A major technological accident either in the sector of physics or in the sector of biology.

Autumn bounty
Autumn bounty

Hopefully, none of these fears will come to pass. Or, maybe something completely different will happen, with unforeseen consequences upon the world as we know it. As we speak, the increasing shifts in populations and the spread of terrorism, whether we want to acknowledge it or not – whether we believe it is our problem or not – are two things that have already had a major impact on most of our lives.

In Greece, at the moment, we are experiencing at first hand two potentially life-altering  events:
The first is the changing in the climate. All the Mediterranean region will eventually become sub-tropical. This apparently is due less to carbon emissions by cars, cows farting, aerosol cans, etc than to the effect of all the wars in the Middle East.
The second is the influx of a huge amount of foreigners, of a totally different culture, religion, and language, upon a population of eleven million, of which one are already immigrants. These have been remarkably well assimilated, so far, but there will soon be real issues of percentages, as well as of limited resources.

I wonder what everyone thinks about this – perhaps I am exaggerating, but it does frighten me to see how relatively little is done about all these issues. And history is not very reassuring, either.

41 thoughts on “Prophecies of doom

  1. I worry about all the things you’ve mentioned, but I suppose my main fear is that the tipping point will not be recognised and dealt with, either by those in nominal authority on a macro scale, or by me and my family on a micro scale. We can’t live in a constant state of fear, but neither can we afford to blindly ignore clear signs of catastrophe and assess how it will impact on our lives.

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  2. Some of these risks are likely. A more likely one (within or outside the Islaamization risks) is an aggressive stance by Turkey either towards Kurdish Iraq or towards one or more Greek islands. By the way, the unpredicted risks are aptly called `Black Swans” in Nassim Taleb’s book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable . 2007, Random House.

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      1. Iran had the same problem in the eighties when there was an influx of more than two million Afghans. Some returned to their homes but others came and still come so the numbers haven’t changed much in three decades. Sometimes and in some areas there was and still is resentment but they were generally well tolerated by the general population. In my view they contributed and continue to contribute to the economy, particularly agriculture and construction as they are very hard working people. In some farming villages (like where I used to have an orchard) they make up as many as 90% of the population. Like in your case it was impossible to stop the influx. It remains for the authorities to figure out how to turn the problem into an opportunity to improve the economy of the host country so both the host and the guest can benefit. BTW, I don’t mean Iran always observed the refugees and economic immigrants’ rights. There have been several attempts at forceful deportation, etc.

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      2. I agree that immigration can enrich a society. It just needs to be managed so that the newcomers are given the chance to assimilate as quickly and as well as possible. Which in many cases is not done…

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  3. Well generally I manage to believe in our better angels but if I have a fear it is that the increasing big brother of society, with our reliance on the internet and governments seeing and hearing all we do and say will mean a sanitised society enforcing social norms rather letting social pressure dictate what is acceptable and not. That way we infantilise us and we are less resilient to shocks less adaptable and so less intuitive less problem solving. That way leads to a societal collapse of epic proportions and a new dark ages only with billions of people not millions.

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  4. Another interesting blog and what a terrifying list. The world has always lived in crisis and each one of your list could happen but there is very little we can do about it. And as the saying goes “shit happens” that nobody will predict. The so called Black Swan events which Nick Taleb said were the events which we were most vulnerable to. It is the concept of putting something aside for a rainy day. But maybe in Greece every day is a rainy day (not literally of course). The reserve fund has been used up long ago so it is no good predicting the next disaster.

    So I think we should all concentrate on the simple pleasures like the Autumn fruit in your picture and stop worrying about events we cant control. Live life from day to day as if it is our last. That philosophy applies to the people of Aleppo just as much as it applies to more fortunate people like myself. I’ve learnt that advisers/politicians know nothing about the future and neither do we,

    I am also a great believer in the philosophy that for every positive outcome there is always a negative outcome. So however bad things seem to be there is always a remarkable capacity in people to do good in the world and to help others. The marvellous work of the Greek people on Lesbos (and other islands) is testament to that.

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  5. Though thoughtful awareness and empathising with the horrors of the millions of suffering and displaced refugees is humanly a must, we just can’t allow media and TV to draw us into a mindset of fear and terror in our – so far – luckier countries. Fear and terror are the words they use to sell us their news. Our leaders and politicians are just expressions of a muddled humanity that hasn’t progressed all that far despite technological progress. History does move on and the waves of displaced populations will determine the future equations. No amount of regulations or length/height of walls will stop them. It is all profoundly disturbing, but we should not let it distract our thoughts and energies from the daily task of creating positivity around us…

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  6. All my life passed by worrying something… and seems that will never end. We all know and remember the past days, history but do they know too, I mean our leaders? By the way are they really a leader for us… there are many questions… I loved your photographs, Thank you, wishing all the best for all of us, Love, nia

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  7. An interesting piece, Marina. I tend to think most nations, or supra-national agencies, will have contingency plans of varying degrees of sophistication and efficacy for these scenarios, save for the final one which has no specifics to it. Naturally, that doesn’t imply any capacity to entirely mitigate effects, but they would at base keep affairs of state running in the new paradigm. We can be fairly certain of this now that much of the Cold War contingency planning has come into the public domain, for example. I am surprised not to see the collapse of the world’s financial system on the professor’s list, and the omission of cyber warfare too, both of which are now, even extant, global threats. With many thanks, and all best wishes, Hariod.

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    1. It was just a short article, so not exhaustive (I’m sure there are other threats, as someone else also pointed out). But it made me think. Of course, it is impossible to anticipate everything, and also one cannot live in fear.

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  8. When I was young, everyone expected nuclear war in Europe. The Cuban missile crisis, the Berlin Wall, and other incidents, all were thought to be triggers for something cataclysmic. Chances are that something terrible will happen eventually. It usually does. One thing’s for sure though. There’s no point worrying about it util it actually does.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I have a similar experience. I was all for helping change things, until I saw all my work go down the drain. The combined power of inertia and corruption unfortunately tends to gain the upper hand eventually. Sadly…

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  9. global warming and other ecological issues should perhaps be on this list as well?

    fbi agent john patrick o’neill foresaw the attack on the twin towers; he was ignored.

    fall of lehman bros was predicted by many analysts

    populations have been shifting for millions of years all over the world – a few years of settlement by one homogenous group is an unlikely anchor

    we are not good listeners and most of us fail to realize that we are frogs in the pot until the water is boiling

    perhaps i am a pessimist yet i still pray for paths to peace for everyone

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, Sharon. I don’t know why I even wrote about this list (the article put the frighteners on me…) but everyone keeps adding more things! On the other hand, it’s true that there have always been catastrophes, plagues etc, and yet we’re still here. We’re stupid about learning from our mistakes, but good at surviving in the long run…

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  10. Every era has its uncertainties. I grew up during the cold war and remember well my parents discussing possibility of an atom bomb attack back then.

    Even so, I think the uncertainties of current times are exacerbated by the unprecedented access we have to global news. There are times I am overwhelmed by the despair it brings. Like Charlie@Seattle, I think trying to forecast the outcome of such complex issues is futile.

    Despite this, my faith in the future remains hopeful.

    Thanks for the interesting comments Marina.

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  11. I’m at turns optimistic and pessimistic about what will happen in the world – I’m also very curious as to what I’m likely to witness over the next (hopefully!) forty years or so – change has speeded up so much over recent decades, I can’t really imagine what will be possible.

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  12. It is pretty scary. I ask myself what I can do, and what I’ve decided is that wherever I can make myself independent from the grid, I will try to be. That means growing at least some of my own food, etc. I hope to buy a little land on a lake or with a well, so I have my own water. I don’t really trust my own government anymore, so I really feel like the world has indeed become a scary place. Otherwise, I think we must continue letting our lights shine out into the world, trusting that by using our gifts our light will continue to vanquish the dark that seems on the verge of swallowing the world. You are such a light, so keep shining! 🙂

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