Written By Sherwood Kohn

What happened to “the future?”

Not that there will be no future. It is just that no one seems to use the phrase these days, preferring to use “going forward” instead.

Or maybe we are seeing a lack of faith in the future; hence a phrase vaguely indicating an event that will be occurring at a time to come. Or perhaps not.

Is there a general fear that the much-publicized Mayan prophecy that the world will end in 2012 will take place and there will actually be no future? Are we that worried about an apocalypse?

Perhaps it is just a fad. The people who use “going forward” may just prefer to be seen as leaning in a positive direction, or as dynamic personalities who are marching, seeing or planning actively into the future.

Whatever is the case, it seems to me that there is an element of denial in the consistent use of “going forward,” rather than “in the future.”

Denial of what? The future? Do we no longer believe in things and events to come? Is there a societal attack of myopia? Cannot people see beyond their noses? But even the wisest among us, the people upon whom we depend for long-range thinking, are using “going forward” rather than “in the future.”

Have we become a society of Mr. Magoos, condemned to knee-jerk reactions to current events, and to colliding with every obstacle that our near-sightedness destines us to fall over?

That seems the most likely explanation. It would appear to be consistent with much of our society’s ills: the rampant greed, selfishness and incivility; the “winning is everything” attitude among competitors in the economic, political and educational spheres; the apparent lack of altruism and vision among our elected officials; the fervent desire among many to ratchet society back to the 18th century.

Of course. In that context, “going forward” makes perfect sense. Why would you look to the future if you were incapable of envisioning it? Under those circumstances, the only way you can go is forward – unless you retreat or stand still – both of which will gain you contempt. And who wants that?