Monday, December 06, 2004

‘Trends 2000’: Angry Diatribe from the Age of Aquarius

Have you heard the one about the astrologer, the medicine man, and the alchemist who walked into a bar? Apparently, they had too much to drink and decided to write a book called ‘Trends 2000: How to Prepare for and Profit from the Changes of the 21st Century

Perhaps I am too harsh. I am, after all, critiquing this book some seven years after the publishing date. There could be any number of innocent explanations for why I am so very embarassed for author Gerald Celente.

Perhaps this book fell into my hands through a wormhole from an alternate reality where the rules I know simply don’t apply; where the understanding of the ancients fully equals that of modern scientists. After all, the book is told in the past tense—events from the mid 1990s indistinguishable from those coming in 2000 or 2050, except where indicated by citing the headline of a newspaper article.

Or maybe I’m just not in the right frame of mind. Maybe if I were among the “unbufalloed”—a word much loved by Celente—I would recognize in this narrative the very world in which I live: a world where the establishment has conspired to keep me from recognizing the transcendent virtue of alternative medicine, the fading glow of my own inner energy, and the relentless assault of radiation poisoning.

It could even be that Celente does not share the neo-hippie consciousness espoused by his book at all perhaps he is merely predicting the mindset of mainstream America in the 21st Century by writing in the voice he expects them to have. After all, I don’t have any hard evidence that Celente wrote this book in a vacuum while under the influence of herbs of dubious salutary value. The jacket states that he is “founder of the Trends Research Institute”, an organization that supposedly had, as of 1997, an impressive track record in trend spotting.

But if this is the case, I fail to see why Chapter 2 was necessary, explaining how the celestial precession of the equinoxes places the new millennium in the Age of Aquarius.

In any event, this book is not entirely bad. It is truly multidisciplinary (not that I consider alchemy a discipline), living up to an introductory promise to not be blinded by technological advancement in a civilization with so many other dynamics. This is a rare and commendable trait in future studies today. But ‘Trends 2000’ cyclically flushes any accumulated credibility with an undercurrent of acerbic demagoguery and bad science, leaving little more than an awful song in the reader’s head. “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Aquarius, ooooh…”

In an early chapter, Celente fails to recognize the remarkable achievements in health and sanitation implied when a nation finds that cancer has become a leading cause of death. Worse, he seems to think that nuclear power is responsible for the terror. “Zooming radiation levels have made it a statistical certainty that the cancer death rate will go up still more dramatically within decades,” he claims, in a typical passage where the reader is left to guess whether the argument is an interpretation or a prediction. He doesn’t seem to think there should be any reason for Americans to put up with fossil fuels, either… at this point, early in the book, he’s begun offering hints of cheap, limitlessly energy just over the horizon. I couldn’t wait to find out what he had in mind.

Somewhere in the long middle of ‘Trends 2000’, when the ‘unbuffaloed’ have started acting on their realization that everything is giving them cancer and killing their souls, he makes his most memorably accurate prediction: “Home improvement and remodeling, from the architect/designer level to do-it-yourself, will be a strong growth sector.” (His pseudo-history is punctuated with bold-faced, future tense “Trendposts” like this one.) Of course, his psychological reasoning here is somewhat suspect. I would argue that the craze has had more to do with mortgage refinancing than with people trying to restore their souls through Feng Shui and hands-on labor. But still, he wins a couple of points.

He also foresees, with some accuracy, a growing fascination with vitamins and herbal remedies, whether they be “scientifically” proven or not. Celente obviously seems to think that the future will show them to be extremely worthwhile; I am much more skeptical.

In the final chapters of the book, we learn how new forms of education will restore balance and sustainability to an impoverished, toxic, crime-ridden, nation:

“On the colloge level, an Interactive U. diploma included courses in lost civilizations, sacred geometry, alchemy, reincarnation, psychic phenomena, ancient prophecies, extraterrestrial life-forms, alternative medicine and healing, esoteric philosophy and metaphysics, and other subjects formerly taboo at the university level.” p.256

It is here that one of Celente’s few technology-centered predictions come into play (though it’s lost in the New Age nonsense). By 2005, he explains, the videophone will have become an indispensable fixture in every home and office. I guess there’s still time.

But his grasp of technology doesn’t really become apparent until he finally unveils the cheap abundant source of power that will soon reveal today’s energy providers as the innovation-suppressing, money-grubbing monopolists they are. Yes. You guessed it: Cold fusion.

It could be that ‘Trends 2000’ is a book far ahead of its time—that much of what I’m laughing at now will indeed be the history of our past, albeit with a different set of dates attached. But if you believe that, I need to tell you the one about the shaman, the vitamin consultant, and the alien abductee who all died and wanted to get into heaven. The shaman goes up to St. Peter and says…


Blogger s1m0n said...

I take it youre not an Aquarian then? Perhaps you could benefit from tempering your yang and reuptaking your yin? ;) Seriously i havent read the book in question but the 2005 prediction sounds pretty spot on to me. I use teleconferencing software quite a lot now, and when you connect up the webcam and the headphone/microphone apparatus how is that set-up not equivalent to a "video-phone" but under a different name? If anything its better than because so long as you have an internet connection you can connect with anyone in the world without paying anything. And its still 2004! As to its indispensibility, we are not quite there yet, but at the rate at which society is moving, who is to say what life will be like in a years time?

1:13 PM  
Blogger Mitch Howe said...

Oh, I don't doubt that many people are finding uses for videoconferencing today. I've used it on occasion in the stereotypical show-the-grandparents the baby context.

But there's a powerful counterpressure towards anonymity. It's just easier to not worry about how you and your surroundings look when making a call; it will take some time for an etiquette to evolve regarding video.

But the drive to hide goes even farther than that. Many prefer the, concise, deliberative format of the written word to speech; Instant messaging keeps many of these people from having to talk at all. Just look at all the people who text message each other on their cell phones, even when they're not in situations where it would be inappropriate to call.

For many, the ideal will not be videophones, but VR conferencing in which the participants are represented by avatars of their choice. You can get most of the immediacy and nuance of videoconferencing this way, with little of the self-conscious worry.

2:33 PM  

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