Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Globalization

Power over Wisdom

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - a concert piece by French composer Paul Dukas was originally an ages-old fairy tale that had been interpreted as a poem by Goethe.

You may recall Walt Disney’s version in Fantasia

where Mickey Mouse is the mischievous apprentice-magician to the Sorcerer, Yen Sid (Disney spelled backwards) assigns Mickey the task of filling a large vat with water that requires using buckets to collect it from an outdoor fountain. Yen Sid then departs leaving Mickey to the task. He is soon bored and by putting on Yen Sid’s magical hat uses his powers to put arms and legs on a broomstick and commands it to fetch the water. Mickey sits back and proudly waves his arms like conductor as he watches the broomstick merrily going back and forth with overflowing buckets. Mickey falls asleep and dreams of controlling the clouds, the planets and the universe. Mickey suddenly awakes with water crashes over him in the flooded room. Mickey doesn’t know how to command the broomstick to stop. In desperation he smashes the broomstick into many pieces. They come alive and now he has an army merrily carrying water and a swirling flood threatens to drown everything. The story has a happy ending when the Sorcerer returns and put an end to the flood

The lesson? Don’t start what you don’t know how to finish or know your limits. The story illustrates the dangers of power over wisdom.

Globalization is a replay of this story with many thousands of tiny apprentices turned loose to use their magical powers. The only problem is that we don’t have the Sorcerer or Wizard that can tell them when to stop. Like Mickey they dream about their power and lead their little assigned activities to expand and grow. They have no idea where it will end.

One billion people in the world at the beginning of the 20th century have now become seven billion at the beginning of this century and there isn’t much room any more for the animal kingdom. In another 100 years at this rate there will be standing room only and the wild animals will be gone. In the meantime our tiny apprentices will build more of everything, strip the land of our forests and voraciously dig into the earth’s crust to extract whatever remains to in order to satisfy their ambition and to supply the needs and wants of this ever increasing and demanding human army. Temperatures will rise, the coastlines will flood people from their homes and the mountain glaciers will disappear thus drying up the fertile valleys below that feed millions of people. In a world of scarcity people will flee increasingly uninhabitable lands. Tiny apprentices in political roles will rally their citizens to gain control of a portion of this unstoppable momentum and wars will be inevitably fought over what remains.

There is a lot of wisdom out there but who can stop the tiny apprentices?

Maybe we have to hope for a Sorcerer to arrive before it is too late.