Mail Call: Ten Years From Now

Our Sept. 16-Sept. 23 special double issue on futurology excited most readers. Some complimented us, others quibbled with our predictions. One thought that we didn't give future studies enough respect. But most letter writers simply said thank you.

The Future of the World

I don't see the 1939 GM Futurama as an example of "Failed Futurology" ("Future Imperfect," Special Report, Sept. 16). As a boy of 8 I was entranced by the GM Futurama. What fascinated me the most were the futuristic superhighways, multilane ribbons of traffic filled with cars, buses and trucks winding their way in and out of the city. These highways crossed over each other with graceful clover-leaf interchanges connecting them. I can remember that sight to this day. Years later I stood on a bridge near the site of the 1964 GM Futurama II, gazing down at the busy, multilane Grand Central Parkway--looking much like what I had seen in miniature a quarter century before. Four hundred yards away, an equally busy Long Island Expressway passed over the Grand Central, the two highways connected by a clover-leaf interchange. I remember nothing of the 1964 GM exhibit--only that view of the realized future. Failed futurology? Hardly!
G. David Thayer
Salem, Oregon

As always, I love your writers. However, I'd like to correct an impression regarding Uruguay in your interesting Sept. 16 article "Death of the Male" (Special Report). You're correct in saying that men are outnumbered in secondary school in Uruguay. However, the reason Uruguay (not rich by U.S. standards, but quite well-off culturally) has more women than men--not only in high school but in universities--is probably that women were granted equal rights at the beginning of the last century. Women were given the right to vote here in 1932, and they won unilateral, uncontestable divorce rights in 1912. We have one third more female graduates in law and medicine than men and most of our judges seem to be women (not to mention those in favored professions like dentistry, architecture and veterinary science). Perhaps the rest of the world would like to know how men adapt to women leading the way? They have done pretty well. We share our duties. Women have not lost femininity, nor have men lost their masculinity. I'm lucky to be married to a Uruguayan.
Patricia Cook Martinez
Maldonado, Uruguay

You're right in saying about Sweden: "For decades its pension, health and unemployment benefits kept most everyone happy" ("The Dole Loses Its Job," Sept. 16). But like many European countries, Sweden has too few workers to support a rapidly growing population. The problem is that workers who come from other countries go directly into the welfare-cost system (health and unemployment benefits). Most of Sweden's immigrants are dependent on the welfare system. We are seeing the collapse of Sweden as a welfare state.
Dennis Brinkeback
Hasselby, Sweden

You predict that in the year 2012, thanks to U.S. military help in 2002, Colombia will become another Vietnam ("War Zones of 2012"). This is crystal-ball prediction; it's not based on facts. The narco-guerrilla who exists in Colombia derives his power from kidnappings, terrorism and narcotraffic. If the international community does not help Colombia now, in 2012 our country will truly belong to the international narcotraffic mafia, and the whole civilized world will be narcotized.
Eduardo Romero
Cali, Colombia

I could only laugh when I read your prediction for Israel in "War Zones of 2012" (The World, Sept. 16). The simple truth is that the left does not have a chance to win in Israel for the next decade. Why? Because when the government of Ehud Barak offered Palestinians a peaceful and just solution consisting of nearly 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza and half of Jerusalem, the Palestinians responded with the biggest onslaught of suicide bombings in human history. Any other people not influenced by militant Islam would have accepted Barak's peaceful solution. Militant Islam, however, does not understand compromise or tolerance. Therefore, what Israel is fighting against, just like the United States, is the uncompromising ideology of militant Islam. Apart from a few from the left, there is a consensus in Israel that Arafat is the villain, not the Mandela that Europeans imagine him to be.
Mladen Andrijasevic
Beersheba, Israel

God only knows what the world will be like in 10 years. However, I am surprised that you picked Wali Khan to comment on Pakistan ("War Zones of 2012"). His family ferociously opposed the creation of Pakistan in 1947. His father, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was a chosen lieutenant of Mahatma Gandhi and was himself nicknamed the "Frontier Gandhi." His followers have still not accepted the Two Nation Theory that was the basis for the creation of Pakistan. They refuse to call the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam (The Great Leader).
Syed Masud Ul Hassan
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Bravissimo, Alan Zarembo! The idea that particular groups of men will be finding it increasingly difficult to cope in tomorrow's world has not even begun to sink in among our politically hyper, and at times naively correct, modern societies ("Death of the Male," Sept. 16). In some social strata lifelong learning, a prerequisite for success, is still being denigrated among boys; being a diligent student has always been regarded as a strength in girls. Social skills and emotional intelligence, seen as female bastions, are gaining importance. And yet it is deplorable and discouraging to find that in so many children's books, girls almost invariably figure as role models in creating harmony, while boys are too often depicted as those out to disturb the peace.
Werner Radtke
Paderborn, Germany

Your Sept. 16 special report on "The World in 2012" made for some interesting and even exciting reading. But one important trend was overlooked--the rise of Islam in Europe. One could make a strong case that in reality most of Europe is now post-Christian, and in the next 100 years Islam will become the dominant religion in Europe.
L. L. West
Stenberga, Sweden

I was disappointed to read about Nigel Harris's concept of "extreme commuting," in which cities like London would fly over planeloads of Turks to clean their streets or hospitals in weekly rotations ("Putting the City in Motion," Sept. 16). This is the mentality that still sees immigrants as commodities or slaves who came from former colonies to Europe. Many migrant workers in Western Europe might be working in municipal services, but there are also planeloads of Turkish businessmen and women, artists and professors flying over European cities. They contributed to Europe's recovery after World War II. The Western world needs to be friends with migrants, understand their needs and respect them, as we need more migrants every day in today's aging world.
Kadir Onur Babaoglu
Istanbul, Turkey

In your forecast ("War Zones of 2012"), China was mentioned twice out of the six possible flash points in the world. This is the result of failing to focus on fundamental developments going on in that nation. According to World Bank data, the per capita GNP of China reached US$840 in 2000. Granted, this is not a high figure, but it is more than four times what it was in 1980. In other words, during the intervening 20 years when China made economic developments, for a consecutive 1,000 weeks, tens of millions Chinese marched across that line of abject poverty--less than $1 per day. This is a phenomenal drama that is unprecedented in human history. Many Chinese cities, like Shanghai, have been transformed into glistening metropolises. China continues to outperform the world in economic growth, achieving growth rates of more than 7 percent annually. In 2012, Chinese per capita GNP will have reached US$1,840--modest, but safely in the lower middle-income range of World Bank classification. In a war, China has a lot to lose now. This kind of war rhetoric published in NEWSWEEK international will only encourage President Chen Shuibian of Taiwan to be even more reckless and irresponsible in trying to increase tensions between the United States and China, which could engulf the whole Asian-Pacific region in conflict. Like the Chinese government, we all need to make economic development the top priority.
Fred Li
Taipei, Taiwan

What a magnificent issue! Thank you. As a minister, I often marry couples in Japan. I am always impressed by how much marriage is, despite our talk of equality, a contract whereby men own women. Surely new family forms are called for. Your article "Death of the Male" and the powerful hints in "The Next Ice Age" (Life in 2012) brought to mind the possibility of "women's towns" where women own their own bodies and their homes, and let men share their beds only when they want them to; the children are theirs and the men are kept only as permanently as the householder wants or needs them. It's time to find some way out of this terrible situation where so often, in reality, the bull owns his cow. There are better possibilities.
Bob McWilliams
Hiroshima, Japan

You offer a variety of glimpses in your Special Report on what the future may hold for us. However, in your article focusing on the practice of future studies ("Futurology"), the true state of affairs in this discipline remains uncovered, buried by pithy anecdotes, a description of future studies as idealistic or a "faith," and a focus on prediction, which is not what future research is about. Rather, it is a professional and academic discipline that examines possibilities and provides frameworks for discussion. An in-depth and thoughtful examination of the future provides information from which people can draw data and ideas to be adapted to their needs. It can help improve strategic decision making and global understanding. The practice of future research is growing worldwide. Government leaders, policymakers, corporate executives and academics value and utilize information generated by future studies to help them make better decisions. In our fast-changing, uncertain world, a focus on the future, through professional examination of the possibilities, is more crucial than ever.
Jerry Glenn
Director, Millennium Project
Washington, D.C.

Rumsfeld's Saber-Rattling

In "Rumsfeld's War" (U.S. Affairs, Sept. 16), I was surprised that you failed to mention that Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Iraq in 1983 as President Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East with a personal letter from Reagan to Saddam Hussein offering American help to Iraq. This was the start of a seven-year alliance between two countries, which helped Iraq to become such a powerful American ally in the Middle East. This was also when Saddam was using chemical weapons on his own people--and that was conveniently ignored by the United States then.
Paddy Meyler
Ashford, Ireland

I think we should let "Rumsfeld's War" remain within the confines of fiction. For me, his gung-ho impatience brings to mind a Japanese verse about the brutal Nobunaga, the subtle Hideyoshi and the calculating Ieyasu. What if the bird will not sing? Nobunaga answers, "Kill it!" Hideyoshi answers, "Make it want to sing." Ieyasu answers, "Wait." The United States should do the same and save us an appointment with disaster.
Michael G. Driver
Ichihara City, Japan

"Rumsfeld's War" showed the power of a single individual to possibly draw the entire United States into an unjustified war with Iraq. Such saber-rattling is especially duplicitous considering that Saddam's Iraq was considered a friend of the United States during the Iran-Iraq War. Has President Bush forgotten that his daddy was vice president at the time the Reagan administration was helping arm the Iraqis against Iran?
Barry Duell
Kawagoe, Japan

How can the United States be viewed as "a respectful and respected force for democracy" today, let alone in future years, when it openly interferes in other countries' elections? You should ask what the Bush administration would consider a democratically elected president, bearing in mind that George W. Bush received half a million votes less than his rival and won only because a court loaded with Republican-appointed judges ruled in his favor.
Ken Proud
Baguio City, Philippines