These times we’re living in just keep getting stranger and stranger every day, don’t they? What’s interesting is that we were warned of all this decades ago. Millennials and Gen-X were too young or not yet born when the prophecies were made. But most of us were here to witness the predictions first hand. Part of the reason we failed to take heed is that we don’t recognize the prophets as prophets, and therefore don’t see them as anything more than entertainers. Our paradigm of prophets is that of biblical characters like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, therefore if their appeal is not in any kind of biblical context, we’re blind to their message. I say the modern day prophets are people like William Neal Harrison, Paddy Chayefsky and Stephen King. If humankind still exists 200 years from now and still practices some form of religion, I think those authors and others like George Orwell for example, will be revered as prophets of that religion.
Last week the TCM network was screening movies from the 1970s. I was in the prime of my life during those times. The 1970s were a seminal moment in American history. It was the decade that marked the beginning of the United States decline from number one in the developed world in education and enlightenment to where we are today, which most people would argue as last in that category. The 1960s saw JFK challenge Americans to fly to the moon in that decade, and in support of that quest, made the education of its youth the country’s highest priority. It worked. But it proved to be a double edged sword. Along with the technological advantages gained as a result of enlightened independent thinking came the ability to see through the cultural, philosophical and psychological façade, which we called American democracy, that hid the backbone of fascist dogma that was and to a large extent still is, at the core of all our behavior as Americans. It was that massive cultural shift that led to protests against the Viet Nam war and to a large degree, the civil rights movement and the feminist movement. Beginning with Richard Nixon’s presidency, the Republican Party, which for the past 100 years has primarily represented corporate money interests for the people who run this country, have been making a concerted effort to dumb down the American public and have done so with great alacrity and success. They put our fascist tendencies to good work when it came to the public school system. Rather the integrate neighborhoods, which was the only true way to integrate schools, we elected to destroy the entire system. Consider the leadership we have today and ask yourself if that could have been possible in the 1970s, when everyone read the paper and everyone knew how to vet the information they received.
William Neal Harrison warned us of the danger of allowing corporate interests to control the destiny of mankind in the movie Roller Ball, staring James Caan and Maude Adams. I made reference to that movie in my first book, African American Prosperity. The movie that is most prophetic of today’s reality is Paddy Chayefsky’s movie, Network, starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Robert Duvall, which warned of the danger of allowing TV ratings to influence network news. The network journalist of the time, such as Walter Cronkite, Ed Neumann and Barbra Walters, were extremely critical of the movie and deemed it to be completely unrealistic, and that network executives would never allow TV ratings to influence news content. As Ben Mankiewicz, the host of TMC’s airing of the movie put it, such comments by those journalistic giants could almost be considered quaint given today’s reality.
Finally, Stephen King offered the most poignant prophecy, given today’s reality, in his book and subsequent movie, The Stand. If you go back and watch that movie, keep in mind that the coronavirus, although deadly, is relatively benign when compared to a more virulent infection like Ebola for example. Consider where we would be if COVID-19 had the same characteristics it actually has (a relatively long incubation period and airborne infective capacity), but instead of a 3% fatality rate had a 90% fatality rate killing people of all ages with equal effectiveness. Stephen King explores that possibility in his epic novel and 6 hour movie, The Stand. COVID-19 is nature’s prophet. It’s here to warn us of what the consequences for us will be if will continue to insult the environment, abuse plants and animals and ignore science and nature.
I invite all of you to go back and stream or watch On Demand all of these movies. If you’re my age, you’ll be amazed at how on point they were at the time. If you’re a Millennial or Gen-X you’ll be awed if not shocked by how accurate they were in their predictions. In any case, besides being enlightened, you’re certainly going to be thoroughly entertained.