A hundred years from now by Ann Henning Jocelyn

Ann Henning Jocelyn grew up in her native Sweden and finished her education in England. She had an early playwright debut in 1972 while completing a degree in Drama, Art History and English. After two years at drama school in London, she worked as assistant to legendary director Charles Marowitz and also appeared in a number of productions at the Open Space Theatre in London. Naturally bi-lingual, she went on to translate plays, films and books, working with authors such as Ruth Rendell, Kazuo Ishiguro and Joanna Trollope. She also collaborated with film star Ingrid Bergman on the autobiography ‘My Life’. Since the mid 1980s, after marrying fellow-author the Earl of Roden, she has been based mainly in the West of Ireland, writing eight books and three more stage plays, which have been published/produced in a number of countries. The Connemara Whirlwind Trilogy, represented in UNESCO’s International Youth Library, first appeared on the Irish bestseller list in 1990 and is still selling well. Keylines and Keylines for Living, two collections of her inspirational “thoughts for the day” broadcast regularly by RTE for the past decade, has been published so far in six languages, including Chinese, while excerpts have appeared in seven Irish anthologies.

A HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW

By Ann Henning Jocelyn

 “This is how it’s done nowadays,” you often hear people say, or “That’s the way now.” The words reflect complacency, not to say satisfaction, with the present status quo. As if modern man had espied all the answers, when in actual fact, our time, like any other, represents a transitory stage, soon to be a thing of the past. A hundred years from now, our successors will look at us with incredulity and forbearance, the way we regard those who went before us. It may sound something like this:

Life can’t have been easy in the early years of the twenty-first century. People were reduced to hapless victims, ruled by a ruthless commercial system that controlled everything – from world politics down to the single individual. Many of the grievous mistakes that we to this day are struggling to put right were caused by the self-seeking greed in this period. Even human life, from the cradle to the grave, was turned into a commodity. Even the most private aspect – sexuality – was hi-jacked to market everything from cough mixture to car insurance. Endless consumption was all people had to look forward to. On their day off, families no longer went to church – but were packed off to a shopping centre. The motor-cars they were encouraged to use polluted the atmosphere worse even than the mountains of horse manure clogging up city streets a century or so earlier.

The so called new technology also caused problems, since they hadn’t yet learnt how how to handle it. An array of electronic aids enabled them to be in constant communication with each other, deflecting them from the rewards of solitary reflection and profound sentiment. Mass media indulged in base gossip, and for cheap entertainment, unsuspecting individuals willing to expose themselves willy-nilly for a chance of instant fame, were cynically exploited by television companies. In the naively wide open cyber space, sick, dangerous and destructive elements had the field to themselves. It was a good while before proper structures were put in place to protect the most vulnerable members of the society.

Powerful business interests took advantage of lofty ideals, such as the freedom of expression, to further its own ends, dismissing outright brain research suggesting a direct link between the orgies of virtual violence, blood and cruelty flooding the market and the increase in violent crime and decreasing sensibility amongst the young people it targeted. There was little incentive to recognize the human brain as a delicate and receptive organ, easily influenced and conditioned. Now of course we know that, in order to thrive, a developing brain needs to be nurtured and protected, like a tender plant. If it is fed with poison, poison is what it will give off.

Many people living at this time seem to have been lost, lonely and deeply unhappy –if nothing else, judging by the vast quantities of alcohol, narcotics and prescription drugs they consumed. Considering the social environment they’d created for themselves, it would be a wonder if any of them got any enjoyment out of life…

Oh well… this, of course, is conjecture, much of it in jest. But I must admit, I’m concerned to see the general complacency, or satisfaction, with life as it is today. For if we persuade ourselves that all is well in the world we live in – how will we ever make it better?

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