Predictions: Second oldest profession

By Elie Mikhael Nasrallah

What does the next year look like? When and from where is the next pandemic heading our way? Every year we agonize over such unsolvable dilemmas to no avail. No one knows. No human being is capable or has the faculties to predict the future of man’s march to the unknown. Yet we keep trying at the end of each year.

The desire to know the course of the future is a constant human inclination or need. In fact, it lies at the foundation of every religion created since our days as conscious thinkers. Pope John Paul II once noted that people are drawn to religion to answer the really big questions, like: “What is the ultimate ineffable mystery which is the origin and destiny of our existence?”

So, tighten your belts, ladies, and gentlemen, as the season of prognosticators, forecasters, predictors, fortune-tellers, psychics, astrologists, economists, futurists and forecasting experts of all kinds are lining up to serve us with our yearly doses of star-gazing and predictions served on a platter of deceit, contempt for reason and the Enlightenment. But we are thirsty for some illusionary certainty, and hungry for some assurances of survival on a planet that is getting too hot to handle economically, pandemically, environmentally, and politically.

Indeed, over the past 20 years or about, after two centuries of gradual ascendency, the Enlightenment values of reason, secularism, independent inquiry, and scientific empiricism have come under fierce assault from a coalition of radical deconstructionists and medieval flat-earthers, New Age mystics, and Old Testament fundamentalists, not to mention the advance of Trumpism and its assault on the truth by advancing “alternative facts” narrative and the denial of facts, agreed-upon truth, and basic common sense sensibilities. Trumpism was the anti-Enlightenment movement that is still savaging the American political culture with unpredictable consequences.

So, we are destined for the next few weeks to endure a barrage of forecasting and predictions. Each year the predictions industry showers us with about $300 billion in mostly erroneous information and misplaced focus.

In fact, these misguided experts whose advice we pay handsomely for, routinely fail to predict the major events that shape our world whether it be the economy, stock market, new political movements, or climate catastrophes. Famous events that caught the predictors by total surprise include the 1987 stock market crash, the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of Donald Trump and Trumpism, the rapid rise of China, COVID-19 pandemic, the first Gulf War, the recession of 2008-bordering on a mini-depression, the Arab Spring/revolts, and the technological inventions of the past two decades, just to name a few.

Winston Churchill complained once that the future was one damn thing after another. History does not repeat itself. The future remains mostly unknowable. Even author Peter Drucker wrote in his business book that, “Forecasting is not a respectable human activity and not worthwhile beyond the shortest of periods.”

As individuals, we pay a large psychological cost when doom-and-gloom gives us needless anxiety and stresses our families, and poisons our workplace. Then after that, there is the cost of just plain being duped!

It has been said, and wisely so, that “The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.” Some predictions and forecasts are of major consequences to us all, some are merely comical or harmless pastimes – as Nancy Reagan said about her reliance on horoscopes and fortune tellers. Cumulatively, however, the proliferation of the prediction industry and forecasters’ worship that follows each year is a sure sign of the malaise, sickness, and utter confusion of our culture and state of affairs.

Elie Mikhael Nasrallah is an immigration consultant practising in Ottawa. His book “Gates and Walls: Reflections on the Immigration Question in Canada and the USA” will be published in 2022. He is the author of two other books and co-authored a third.