According to Greek mythology, when Pandora’s husband Epimetheus opened her famous box, he released into the world all the evils, distempers, afflictions and bad vibes that have affected the human race ever since. It was from that moment said the Ancients, that mankind became the legatee of all such plagues as war, greed, jealousy, famine, haemorrhoids, 5 o’clock shadow, GST and possibly too, this very blog at www.localadserv.com.au
However, Epimetheus managed to bang the lid back onto the box just before the very last affliction had escaped. It is said that the name of the one affliction that he kept inside was ‘Knowledge of the Future’; and that is because we humans have no knowledge of the future whatsoever and because, despite all our past experiences, we have no idea at all about what is going to happen to us, and that is why we are able to carry on with our daily lives without despairing, particularly in the four years it takes for the American elections to occur.
It is also said, by the way, that when Pandora came downstairs and found Epimetheus on his knees on the living room floor banging the lid down on top of little old ‘Knowledge of the Future’, she asked him what the (expletive deleted) he thought he was doing. It is further rumoured that he replied that he was inventing the pressure cooker.
The point is that from the earliest of times, man has feared and shunned old ‘Knowledge of the Future’, regarding it as the ultimate of evils. Or at least the penultimate evil if you were to count Simon Cowell. And yet it always amazes me how mankind, despite this fear and loathing, is hell-bent on pursuing ‘Knowledge of the Future’ whenever possible, and is constantly trying to prise the lid off Pandora’s ‘pressure cooker’ with the bread knife of prediction.
Personally, I think there is far too much predicting going on these days. Now I do realise that the art of prediction has been popular for centuries and will be with us forever anyway (according to latest predictions), but nevertheless I think that we are building up a glut of it: what the EEC would call a prediction mountain. Or rather, a bog maybe.
For example, a couple of years ago now, I saw a Member of Parliament being interviewed on TV outside the House of Commons…
Inside the House, we were told, the Prime Minister was due to give a speech in twenty minutes time. Please note: in twenty minute’s time.
The interviewer (and I have witnesses to back up my version of events) asked the MP what he thought the Prime Minister was about to say. It was unbelievable. We only had to wait twenty minutes and we could have heard for ourselves. Granted, twenty minutes is a long time in politics, and it is quite possible that the current Prime Minister may well be overthrown, but… If the TV people were that keen to fill in their time they could have got the MP to give us a tune on paper-and-comb, or show us his wedding photos, or do a few bird calls – anything in the whole world (and most MPs will do anything in the whole world to get on TV), but, oh no, we couldn’t wait in that manner, we had to have a prediction.
Now in the early days of man’s evolution I can see that a workable ‘Knowledge of the Future’ might have been a great aide for survival. I mean if you were a nomadic tribesman eking a precarious living from the savannahs of Mesopotamia, then predicting the next rainy season or drought might be of more marginal interest. I should imagine that any bright spark that could recognise November coming round again and warn the gang to wrap up warm would be immediately elevated to the rank of seer or even prophet, and would be regarded as a demi-god. But can one say the same thing about the likes of Waleed Aly?
Actually, talking about Mesopotamia (Iran to you), I recently went on an archaeological package tour there, and one thing struck me with a frightening clarity. After nearly quarter of a million years of cultivating the land with never-ending patient labour and tillage, they still hadn’t finished building our bloody hotel. A fact that our travel agents – Fly By Night Ltd. – had failed to predict.
So it seems to me that in the days when life was closer to nature, man had an excuse for his constant hankering after prediction; but I do not see any such excuse nowadays. Generally speaking, most events in twentieth century life occur at such speed and in such random order as to make any attempt at prediction totally valueless.
It is thus obvious that the desire to foresee the future is nothing more than a primary human drive – like sex or hunger. However there has been a marked change in the nature of the predictions we seek. For instance, in the year 1861, the renowned Zadkiel’s Almanac predicted the death of the then Prince Consort in May. The Prince actually died (of typhoid fever) in December, but that was near enough for the day’s punters. They didn’t quibble about seven months between friends when it came to the death of Royalty, and despite this un-forecasted miss-timing error, the 1862 edition of Zadkiel’s Almanac sold 480,000 copies. A fact that, the sales manager of Zadkiel’s had completely failed to predict.
Nowadays not only would poor old Zadkiel have to get it right to the nearest day, but people would be hounding him to know whether the Prince was going to pop his clogs before or after lunch, and what his last words were likely to be. If the prediction pace hots up any further, we may yet reach the stage of an interviewer beginning an interview with a politician by asking: ‘What would you think my first question is most likely to be?’
Well that is the situation as I see it to date. Prediction is our new plague and as far as I can see there’s only one way to stop it: Get rid of all your pressure cookers. That should bring the whole thing to a complete halt by 5:30pm. on Friday 18th September, 2017. Possibly. Maybe. Perhaps. Who knows?
But wait. Please, before we put a halt to the predicted rise in all predictions to come, may I just add this one little aside…?
I have to predict that this blog is set to be the most popular work of fact and sometimes fiction since the very first invention of the printed word. It’s going to be declared as the undisputed, very best thing since sliced bread and reader numbers of this blog will rocket ahead of all predicted forecasts. Toppling Mr Harry Potter as the most read about person of this century to that of second place, closely followed by the Bible, and those awfully nice Jesus and God people from the previous century.
Of course the other problem with prediction is that it is never really checked out and tested.
Nostradamus made a living from his predicting to such an extent, that nowadays we find a situation and go look him up to make his predictions fit the very time. This is what happens now, once a prediction is made, another one invariably comes along and the first one is often forgotten soon after it was ever penned. We never seem to hang around long enough to test our modern day predictions if you see what I mean.
Now what was it I just predicted?