June 01, 2009

AWRF 2009: The Next 100 Years


When I'd see the name Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker writing about American politics, I always pictured a somewhat plump and owlish fellow, sort of a Pierre from War and Peace. I had a lineage imagined for him too; he would have moved to the United States as a boy with his family when his father became US correspondent for a Dutch newspaper, grown up in New York, decided to stay on. His mother would have been named Monique.

Imagine my surprise then when not only did he turn out to be known as "Rick" but ambled out for his "Hour with" wearing -- not just, but most noticeably -- a blue blazer, a yellow silk tie with tiny blue dots, and cowboy boots. His hair was longish and grayish and worn in an unstyled-look style, and he was very American and cheeky in that great American tradition of Mark Twain a hundred years ago, continuing through to Bill Maher today -- both with longish gray hair, come to think of it.

"What perils of his nature do you think Pres. Obama is susceptible to?" a member of the audience asked him. "I guess his rationality," he replied. "He's been compared a lot to Dr. Spock. I don't know. Do you have a few suggestions?" 
                  
I was right that his father was a journalist, with a respected career which actually did include a stint as a "special correspondent" for a foreign newspaper, but he was an American -- a child of immigrant Jews who worked in Manhattan's garment district --and the paper was the Hindustan Times. The appointment grew out of a personal friendship with Gandhi, forged when he visited India as part of the American Famine Mission. His son points to the figure of Gandhi as "a part of my mental apparatus since childhood" and his first story for The New Yorker was on the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's birth. He ventures at a certain point "If the Palestinians had embraced Gandhi's non-violence, they would have a thriving state right now."

For the AWRF 2009 finale, a panel of writers gave us readers their predictions for "The next 100 years". Marcus Chown foretold that we'd find life on Mars, Mohammed Hanif requested that we remember about water supply on Earth, and so on. The one I enjoyed the most was Rick Hertzberg, funny, thought-provoking, going for the imaginative risk. Here they are, what Hendrik Hertzberg thinks will happen in the next 100 years:

  1. There will be wars
  2. Someone will set off a nuclear device somewhere in the world, probably in a populated area
  3. America will throw off the Westminster parliamentary system in a peaceful revolution and follow New Zealand in experimenting with new kinds of elections (in particular this means proportional representation, which Hertzberg is a big fan of)
  4. I don't think it will be another American century. It will be a Chinese century
  5. Revealed religion will decline and religion will distill into something more dangerous and it will probably involve a fight.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30
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