The Past Does Not Predict the Future

The Past Does Not Predict the Future

by Susan Rosenthal

All stock promotions include this caution, “Past performance is no indication of future performance.” Today’s hot stocks can be worthless tomorrow, because no one can predict the future. Neither the stock market nor the weather can be predicted with certainty, and none of us can know for sure where we will be next year.

The only constant in life is change. I grew up during the 1960s, a time of great social change. Blacks, women and gays were marching for their rights. Workers were winning higher wages and benefits. America was being defeated in Vietnam. Yugoslavia was intact. Germany was divided. And computers were found only in science labs.

Just a few decades later, the world has changed dramatically, and so have people’s expectations. My parents expected me to have a better life than they had. I do not expect my children to do as well as I have done. I entered adulthood with great hope for the future. My grandchildren wonder if the world will last long enough for them to have children.


Given so much change over such a short period, I’m amazed when people insist that change is not possible and that the future holds nothing good.

Consider these common statements: You can’t change human nature. We tried socialism/communism, and it didn’t work. You’ll never get people to cooperate, demonstrate, rebel, etc.

Pessimism is self-fulfilling. When we expect nothing to change, then we do nothing to create change. The power of pessimism lies in its ability to block the efforts of those those who believe that real change is possible.

Only our rulers benefit from this massive failure of the imagination. They will rule us as long as they can convince us that capitalism is the only possible system, so that it is futile, idiotic, even reckless to want anything else.

Like all ruling classes that came before it, the capitalist class wants to rule forever. The only change they want is more capitalism. They organize society as if there were no past, no future and no consequences. Only today matters – today’s sale, today’s profit. We all know the consequences: environmental devastation, endless wars of acquisition, and a juggernaut of greed that tramples human lives across the globe. Their dream is our nightmare.

Dare to Imagine

Fortunately, the past does not predict the future. Civilizations come and go. Empires rise and fall. Capitalism will also give way to new social formations. Another world is possible.

Not all choices are available. We can’t turn back the clock; we can only go forward. And we can’t choose the conditions in which we must struggle. However, we can make choices today that will shape the future.

We can choose to believe that it is possible to move beyond a system of class divisions. We can choose to believe that the majority have a common interest in pulling together. We can choose to imagine a cooperative, caring-and-sharing world for our children. And, most important, we can choose to organize ourselves to make these beliefs a reality.

The future could be horrible, or it could be better than we can imagine. We cannot know. We have only two choices: to do nothing and face extinction; or to believe in ourselves and each other and fight for a better world.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Larry Says:

    December 30/07

    It does seem like the past does predict the future, but what we do with our experiences of the past can shape the future into a better way.

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