What Would You Write About Mankind’s Future?
By “Awake!” correspondent in Denmark
“FINAL examinations.” What does that bring to your mind? If you are in school, it may evoke thoughts of your coming efforts to remember facts or to solve problems so as to advance in school. If you are long out of school, it may bring back memories of critical tests that would determine whether you would graduate. But whether you are now in school or not, do you normally link these two things: mankind’s future and school final examinations?
On May 12, 1975, most of the 14,700 senior high school students in Denmark saw a connection between them. Imagine yourself in their situation. In their final examinations they had to write an essay on “Mankind’s Future.” They had six hours to study a twenty-four-page booklet and write their essay involving its contents.
Extremely different possibilities for the future were suggested by the illustrations on the booklet’s front and back pages. The cover showed a woodcut by artist Palle Nielsen. It was the “World of War.” Then on the back was a beautiful scene of paradise, with people playing with various animals and picking fruit. Below this picture was a partial quotation of Revelation 21:3, 4 from the final book of the Bible. The booklet explained that this picture was taken “from Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publication The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.”
Perhaps, as with some of the students, those two illustrations suggest to you two vastly different futures—mankind in ruin or in paradise. Yet, note briefly the six parts of this specially prepared booklet. As you do, think of what you might have written about mankind’s future.
The school booklet contained six printed excerpts, each being one to three pages long. The first text was from Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World, which the Encyclopædia Britannica (1974) says presents “a pessimistic vision of a world state” in the future. The book “describes a world in which people use all the newest inventions of science and are miserable and unhappy because they do not know how to love one another.” It is indeed a depressing “vision” for mankind’s future. Would you write in that vein?
The next excerpt was from Der afsindige menneske (in English entitled “The Crazy Ape”), a book by Nobel Laureate biologist Albert Szent-Györgyi. He states: “Today is the first time in man’s history that he is able to truly enjoy life, free of cold, hunger and disease” and “also the first time in his history that man has the capability of exterminating himself in one blow.” The excerpt continued: “One would expect that any idiot could make a wise choice between these two alternatives. It is basically a choice between pleasure and pain. Yet man seems to be bent on choosing the latter.” The biologist then questions: “How can we get out of the fatal groove we are in, the one that is leading towards the brink?” He does not think that there is any religion “which embraces all mankind or appeals to all mankind,” so he rules out religion as a possible remedy. He is particularly critical of the “church imperialism” of Christendom, for it “has a very poor record.” On the other hand, he points to science and its “method for building a safe new world, resolving the differences between nations, creating peace without fear, hunger and disease, with undreamt-of wealth, dignity and happiness; a world not based on force but on decency, equity and good will.” Would you feel this to be a realistic view on which to write?
You can give thought, as did the students, to the third excerpt presented in the school booklet. It set forth the future that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has as its goal for tomorrow. In part it said: “Communism also implies a new man, a man of spiritual richness, moral purity and physical perfection. A high communistic consciousness, love of work and discipline and devotion to the interests of the community—those are the inseparable qualities of this person.”
Many of the Danish students might have been surprised at the nature of the booklet’s fourth text; you might be too. Introducing it, the examination booklet said: “The Revelation is the last book in the New Testament. Here the Apostle John relates his visions of the Last Day, when the dead are being raised from their graves to be judged either to salvation or perdition.” A quotation of Revelation 21:1-8 followed. In part that says: “The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them . . . And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Is that not thought provoking?
Now, nearing the end of the booklet, the fifth text was introduced with this comment: “Jehovah’s witnesses: The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. In the following is described the final battle between Jehovah and Satan and the conditions after the battle. The references in the text apply to passages in the Bible.” You may have a copy of that Bible-study aid, for eighty million copies have been produced in ninety-four languages. The examination booklet presented extracts taken from pages 100-106, the chapters “The Last Days of This Wicked System of Things” and “Righteous Rule Makes Earth a Paradise.” The extracts showed from the Bible that Jehovah God and Christ will intervene in human affairs, wiping out wickedness on earth and doing away with the evil influence of Satan the Devil and his demons. Then, under the rule of the Prince of Peace, men of faith can enjoy peace and unity. All men will be brothers. War will be no more. With Christ as a righteous king, oppression and corruption will not exist on earth. Humans will enjoy peace and freedom from fear.
After reading such an appealing description, you, as were the Danish students, might be jolted by the contrast in the final excerpt. It was from a 1968 book by Sven Holm, Min elskede—en skabelonroman (My Beloved—a Pattern Novel). Like Huxley’s book, this Danish novel sets forth a very pessimistic view of the world of the future.
Well, if you had been in the situation of those students and had studied the six excerpts, what would you write about mankind’s future? Consider the guidelines that the students were given.
Take Your Pick
Each student taking the final examination was given the option of choosing any one of the following six exercises:
1. Characterize some of the views and attitudes about mankind’s future expressed in the booklet’s six excerpts. Use at least three of them in developing the theme “Future Perspectives.”
2. Characterize the fifth-text (Jehovah’s Witnesses) as to style and language used. Discuss how the language used has been influenced by the book’s object, the subject and the readers to which it is directed. Examine how it is related to the fourth excerpt (Revelation). Support your characterization with examples from the excerpts. Use the theme: “A Textual Characterization.”
3. Compare the future visions in the extracts from the novels by Aldous Huxley and Sven Holm. Consider their visions in the light of reality that you know. How do you estimate these excerpts as to being prophecies? Theme: “Fancy or Reality?”
4. Mankind’s future has often been dealt with in science and the arts. Explain one or more presentations of the matter that you know, describing whether they are of future hope or of future ruin. You may choose your own theme.
5. In your opinion what factors will determine what the world will be like in the year 2000? Theme: “The Year 2000.”
6. Interpretation of the excerpt from Sven Holm’s novel. Theme: “My Beloved—a Pattern Novel.”
Which of the six essays would you have picked to develop? You can see that two of the texts express in fiction the pessimism that has prevailed since World War I. While many persons would like to believe that the future will be brighter, is there not ample basis for pessimism?
Going farther, while the promises of science that Dr. Szent-Györgyi mentions may sound fine, are you thoroughly confident that they will be realized? After writing his essay one Danish student was quoted in Copenhagen’s Berlingske Tidende as saying: “If science is given too great power, it is going to be a cold and hopeless world.” Do you see truth in that conviction?
Well, does the outlook presented in the Communist excerpt sound noble and attractive? Everyone answering “Yes” then faces the question of whether it seems probable that this outlook will be realized. Has your experience borne out the likelihood of all humans willingly accepting Communistic indoctrination and producing a “new man, a man of spiritual richness, moral purity and physical perfection”? Or, in many Communistic lands are not party policies pursued basically through force and repression?
Frankly, many observers of human nature and of the world scene would agree with another Danish student who was quoted in the Berlingske Tidende: “We can only hope for a miracle to avoid a third world war—a nuclear war that will destroy the planet in a few seconds.” So what could you accurately write about mankind’s future?
This last-quoted student actually provided a clue. She spoke of something miraculous happening. That is in essence what the other two excerpts point toward, intervention by the Creator of the earth and of mankind. That is no mere idyllic dream; it is just as real and substantial a prospect as the earth and mankind are real.
Many persons seem to think that the Bible book of Revelation sets out a gloomy message of a coming Doomsday and that this is what Jehovah’s Witnesses stress in their preaching. On the contrary, though, God’s intervention—described in Revelation and taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses—is a rescue! “How so?” you may wonder. Note what Revelation 11:18 foretells: “Your [God’s] own wrath came, and the appointed time . . . to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” Far from being a Doomsday for all mankind and the earth, the foretold intervention by God will mean the elimination of only those who threaten the welfare and peace of mankind. Thus, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life could point to this result:
“There will be complete freedom from fear of any harm. Nevermore will anyone be afraid to stroll through a park at night to view the starry handiwork of the Creator. . . . then in a literal way, ‘they will actually dwell in security, with no one to make them tremble.’—Ezekiel 34:28.”
The subject that the Danish students were given to develop, “Mankind’s Future,” is truly of immediate importance to all of us. Considering the matter carefully, a person ends up with the question: Am I to put my future and my trust in the hands of man or of God? The very fact that all of us are dependent on the Creator for the life we have and the air and other means to sustain life certainly recommends that we look into what he has to say regarding the future. He is involved in mankind’s future. He is involved in your future. Why not study His Word carefully to find out what He expects of us now so we will be in position to benefit from what he determines for mankind’s future?
[Picture on page 17]
On its front and back cover, this booklet offers two different views of mankind’s future—mankind in ruin and mankind in paradise. Which do you think correctly foresees what is to come?