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20th Anniversary Rendezvous - Tom Mandel

The last 20 years have been marked by: a) sharp challenges lb assumptions about the nature~^the~Arherican dreamT b) deep and widespread frustrations about the decline of American power abroad and increasing failures at home, and finally c) a partial resurgence of prosperity and the old myth about what America represents to Americans.
Some of the things that will likely stand out during the next two decades:

    Americans will inexorably grow older and our society will become steadily more individualistic, mature, and diverse. The postwar baby boom, central both to the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s and to the retrenchment around materialism during the 1980s, will grow older and somewhat wiser. That will probably mean growing attention, especially during the next decade, to important economic, social, and environmental issues that have been ignored during the past decade. Maturity will generally mean a slower pace of social change and a stubborn unwillingness to embrace radical solutions. But it will also mean a more realistic understanding of problems facing the country and a readiness to compromise in addressing pressing issues.

    Unless pressed to the edge by real catastrophes, Americans will continue to prefer "technological fixes" over radical changes in lifestyles. Voluntary simplicity and the "New Age" are unlikely to become mainstream American values.

    America will be much more ethnically diverse, with Hispanic and Asian groups shifting the central focus of American culture toward lifestyles, values, and experiences associated with Latin America and the Pacific Basin. The world will still be moving toward a more coherent global political and economic system, and Americans will be much more a part of a global society of different lifestyles and interests.

    America's biggest domestic social problem may be what to do about the emergence of a seemingly permanent "underclass," constituting some 20 to 30 percent of our population being left behind by a changing economy and society.

    By the year 2000, another wave of American youth will come into its own, creating yet another youth subculture or if problems are severe, a "counterculture." What tomorrow's youth embraces will seem just as strange to former hippies in their forties and fifties as what we did in the 1960s appeared to our parents.

    By 2008 the United States will just be one among a number of great and emerging powers. The major economic blocs will include Western Europe (moving toward economic federation), the Soviet Union and its Eastern European neighbors (partially liberalized with moderate market economies), and the East Asian rim led by Japan but including Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Malaysia. China, and to a lesser extent, India will be the next-generation economic giants. And there'll be some rising stars in Latin America.

    On the other hand, Africa will likely suffer population decline (because of wars and AIDS), and the Middle East's clout will be declining as oil reserves begin to run dry in all but a few countries (Saudi Arabia, mainly).

    The global conflict between modernism and traditionalism will continue worldwide, and be reflected in frequent wars and persistent terrorism around cultural, religious, political, resource, and technological issues. The myths of the past will not go gently into the night, but the future belongs to cultures that are flexible and inventive enough to incorporate technological and humanistic elements into their foundations.

    Global environmental problems from transnational waste problems to the "Greenhouse Effect" (by no means a certainty in 1988) may become the threads that draw different nations and cultures closer together. Or they may prove to be the roots of another wave of .distrust and warfare.

    Home, work, and leisure activities will still be familiar in the ways that life in 1988 is not radically different from life in 1958 . but the degree of change during the next 20 years will probably be as much as during the past 40.

    The main long-range impact of the AIDS epidemic will likely be enormous advances in knowledge about the human immune system, with entirely new therapies emerging to deal with degenerative and environmental diseases.

Making hard predictions about the future is a guaranteed way to make mistakes. But I believe the above developments are among the important factors shaping our lives and lifestyles over the next 20 years.