Heroes of the Future
By Brenda Cooper, October 12, 2006
History books will eventually write down who the heroes of today are. It’s a murky business to explore, but an interesting thought exercise. It’s easy to suggest the categories that these people might spring from; those who affect true positive change in global warming, people who change the worst parts of globalization into better parts, the voices who speak out for peace. Scientists, firemen who rush into terrorist destroyed buildings, hopefully a political leader or two of today. I decided it was cheating to talk about people who I couldn’t identify by name. It’s a certainty that my views are touched by my own politics and my largely American point of view. So I will miss many people I should include, and my top choices won’t enjoy agreement. Please feel free to visit the futurist.com blog page and leave comments. Here are two broad categories of real people that may be looked at as heroes in the future.
Current Day Rockefellers
There are a number of people at the top of the economic food chain who are working to make the world better. These include Bill and Melinda Gates, perhaps the single richest individuals spending significant effort on the future. Some of the things they are working on are beyond governments and corporations to affect: malaria, global health, poverty, efforts to truly change education. Warren Buffet belongs alongside them for providing significant funding to add to the already serious resources available to the foundation. British entrepreneur Richard Branson pledged three billion dollars to fight global warming. One of my favorites is less well-know. Jack Dangermond of ESRI, the biggest Geographic Information Systems software company in the world, donates significant money and corporate resources to environmental projects. Each year, when I attend the annual ESRI conference in San Diego, I feel like I’m surrounded by thousands of people with a passion to make the world better through mapping. That’s not insignificant – people using ESRI software have mapped migratory routes, disappearing species, disease outbreaks, global warming signs, and generally made many things visible that are not as easily seen in text and numbers as on rich, smart, maps.
My favorite current political activist is Arundhati Roy. Winner of the Booker Prize for her novel, The God of Small Things, she speaks out eloquently and poetically about imperialism, globalization, bad government, nuclear testing, and a host of other topics. She is sincere, smart, and brave. She is also labeled as anti-American, anti-Hindu, and anti-Indian. In other words, she is poking at a lot of people, and willing to be herself, uninfluenced by the hatred her words draw. There’s anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan, who is the most visible voice for peace, if largely because she has much politicized support. Singers and writers also use their voices and art directly for activist causes. There’s U2’s Bono, a singer and social activist. Holly Near is not as well known as Bono, and doesn’t have his resources, but has written and sung to large audiences about peace and against nuclear power. Maya Angelou has a powerful voice in her poetry.
There are people like Al Gore, spending energy, political capital, and money talking about problems they hold dear. A quiet hero who has done more relevant work since his presidency than he did during his term, Jimmy Carter has acted again and again to promote peace. Ultimately, he may get less acclaim but make more of a difference than Arundhati – he is a fixer rather than an accuser.
In some cases, these people have worked at cross-purposes. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are associated with powerful global corporations that Arundhati Roy and Holly Near speak out against. This not a bad thing. In the battle for the future, the conversation counts. Any future dictated by one point of view might end up as dystopian as those portrayed by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.
Will these particular people have major roles in our history books? Bill Gates will, but what he’ll be most remembered for is still to be decided. Lesser heroes like Cindy Sheehan and Holly Near may not be remembered as clearly in a hundred years, or in five hundred. But I’d contest that all of these people are making a difference.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – No introduction needed, I suspect
Arundhati Roy – Note there are multiple websites about Arundhati, none of which appear to be her official site. So this is one place to go. I highly recommend listening to her if you can, there are speeches available as podcasts (including on itunes). Her writing is wonderful, but her speaking is even better
Holly Near – Her official site
Wikipedia site for Bono – Like Arundhati Roy, Bono has wide support and many sites devoted to him. The Wikipidia site seemed most general and has links to others
Wikipedia for Sheehan – Same as Bono. The Wikipedia site points to numerous other links.
The Carter Center, a non-profit founded by Jimmy and Rosyln Carter