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In 2021 al-Hakeem’s story is closer to the truth than ever

Heba Yosry

Published: Updated:

In the year one million, human beings will triumph over every limitation of their physical existence, circumventing death in the process. War will erase natural resources with people mutating to feed from nourishing gases.

Laboratories will create offspring without the need for families, or desires between men and women because no one has died after all.

Human beings have no future to anticipate and no past to feel any sense of nostalgia. Rather their time will be spent in perpetual mediocrity of tasks to fulfil with no binding end. In the year one million the human race will sacrifice humanity at the altar of eternity.

These are not my predictions of what the future might hold for humanity. This dystopian reality was portrayed by the Egyptian writer Tawfiq al-Hakeem in 1953 in his short story “In the Year One Million.” Al-Hakeem begins his story describing the reality that human beings have worked so hard to achieve, while in the process unveiling our achievement as an all-encompassing purgatory that neither absolves our previous sins or allows us to proceed to the promised paradise.

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Al-Hakeem prophesied in the fifties about a seemingly distant and impossible future. A future that we are beginning to witness as it materializes before our unsuspecting and blinded eyes. Some might argue that human beings will never face such a grim reality, with the root of society’s problems stemming from hedonism and desire, and not from a lack of it.

Many will say that death can never be conquered, with the very idea distracting populations from finding solutions for all of the different human ills.

And yet, let’s quickly survey the reality that we find ourselves in before designating these concerns as mere ramblings.

Beginning with the biggest elephant in the room, death. On the face of it “human beings will never conquer death” is a plausible counterargument. Yes, the human body will always be subject to decay and eventually death. Al-Hakeem’s story starts to unravel when our protagonist discovers a skull and supposes that death is a possibility and was a reality in human history.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 05, 2021 in Moscow shows the US online social media and social networking service Facebook's logo (R), the US instant messaging software Whatsapp's logo (L) and the US social network Instagram's logo (C) on a smartphone screen. Facebook on October 8, 2021 said some users were having problems accessing its services, just days after a massive outage. We’re aware that some people and businesses are having trouble accessing Facebook products, a spokesperson told AFP.
(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 05, 2021 in Moscow shows the US online social media and social networking service Facebook's logo (R), the US instant messaging software Whatsapp's logo (L) and the US social network Instagram's logo (C) on a smartphone screen. Facebook on October 8, 2021 said some users were having problems accessing its services, just days after a massive outage. We’re aware that some people and businesses are having trouble accessing Facebook products, a spokesperson told AFP.

I’ve written recently about the danger Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse poses by camouflaging itself as a tool for freedom, when it actually frees us from our material existence and shackles us to the illusion of eternity.

So perhaps in some rudimentary form the Metaverse is an initial step towards reinforcing the mind-body separation. If the technology advances further, which I am sadly certain that it will, human beings in the near future will actively choose between a finite life or ethereal infinity.

What led human beings to be marooned, jaded from their physical selves and constantly yearning for a lucid reality?

I would say that we’ve always harbored the need to exceed our own limitations, whether temporal, spatial or indeed spiritual.
Maybe it began with the story of Adam and Eve who ate from the forbidden fruit. After this first instance of transgression, the path of human history resulted in a fall where we were bound to the land that sustains us.

We created groups and narratives that defined who we were. Then there was the disintegration, when our young began to turn away from the land and from their respective traditions to embrace a more globalist narrative that wasn’t particularly anchored in any tradition or grounded in a particular history.

It was a universal creed accessible through the touch of a button. It began with TV shows, then social media and is now crowned with tiktok videos. We let it happen when we left our children to master English, French and German and didn’t pay enough attention when they lost Arabic along the way.

It was only natural for them to base their own values on what is in vogue, and not on our old, antiquated ideals.

With the loss of connection to their land, and loss of orientation, a new gap has emerged; a loss of a metanarrative that allows them to see themselves, wrongly, as a continuation of us.

Social media is the catalyst behind the creation of an alternative universe, with a new globalist younger generation emerging. They realize that the interconnection that binds them surpasses physical boundaries, and so they believe they can live beyond the limitations of the body.

Consequently, for this new generation, gender is not grounded in biological sex, family isn’t limited to blood relations and life doesn’t necessarily end in death. Perhaps al-Hakeem’s story happened in the year one million, but in 2021 it seems almost imminent.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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