Flash Forward

by Krishna on June 2, 2007

There was an incredible story in the news today about a Polish man, Jan Grzebski, who woke up 19 years after having fallen in a coma. He attributed his survival to his caring wife, Gertuda, who stayed by her husband’s side and helped prevent any infections by moving his position every hour. It is a remarkable recovery considering that many such patients never wake up from unconsciousness. Sometime back, there was the case of Terry Schiavo, in Florida, who was in a vegetative state for over 15 years until her feeding tube was removed.

In the case of Jan, his recovery is almost like a time travel into the future, except that he has also aged. Everything is totally different. In his words,

When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere. Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.

Between his 1988 accident and today, there have been so many amazing changes. The Cold War is over. Communism is dead, except for small pockets here and there. The Internet has fundamentally changed communication and opened opportunities for people across the globe. Hundreds of millions of people have come out of poverty in India and China. Micro-processors increasingly manage every aspect of our daily life, including travel, entertainment, social life, etc.

What would the Communist leaders of the Eastern Bloc have said if they could have taken a trip to the future and seen the world we live in today? I would like to think that they would realize how many more people are realizing their aspirations and dreams than they ever would have under an oppressive socialist regime. At the very least, they would know that communism had failed as an experiment in solving the problems of the market system.

All the technological innovations aside, it is amazing how much we have advanced on the human front. The world we live now is more free and open than it has ever been in all history. There are fewer wars and conflicts, fewer starving people, less illness and death and all the other problems that have plagued humanity. It is very likely that within our lifetime, we will see the end of absolute poverty, disease and war.

And when you consider that, you realize how petty and crazy some of the people in the past were. All the bloodshed and oppression in the past were initiated by people who had no vision of the world that has been made possible today. Think of Europe. 60 years ago, it was the center of the deadliest conflict in all history. Just 20 years ago, it was split between two heavily armed camps ready to destroy the entire world to prove that their way of life was correct. Today, that same Europe has become almost a single entity under the European Union. No more talk of German or French superiority.

Or take a look at other examples from the past and present. The slave traders and slave owners who would not even consider Africans to be human. The cultures that treated women as second-class citizens. In India, “lower-caste” people were treated as “untouchables”. Their sight could make other people “impure”. Today, a person who even suggests something like that would be thrown out. To provide the name of your caste or family today as a supposed mark of superiority serves only one purpose: To display your only crutch and show that you are clueless, idiotic and inferior in every respect.

So the question is: Which side of history are you on?

Are we holding to thoughts and principles that will become outdated in the new world that is shaping before our eyes? Can we look at what we are doing today and see if it makes any sense in 20 years from now? What about our likings and fears today – will they be around in that time? How open-minded are we? What if we wake up tomorrow and find the world changed, our dreams fulfilled and our dangers destroyed? Are we prepared to take advantage of such a world?

And if we are not able to give the right answers to these questions, it is guaranteed that we will laughed at, mocked and hated by people in the future, just like those Communists, Nazis, slave traders, and feudal lords.

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