Predicting events can be a dangerous game. That's because some people simply project wishful thinking, allowing their personal biases to obscure reality. We see it repeatedly during election season. The key to making accurate predictions is absolute objectivity: observing patterns in a detached manner, drawing inferences and applying them to new developments in order to predict their likely trajectory.
The big problem these days is that this requires the absorption of large amounts of information across an enormous landscape -- sometimes straddling disparate points in time and space. This information isn't delivered in a convenient little package like a piece of Ikea furniture, ready for your brain to assemble. As with everything else, we expect a quick fix -- but it takes time to formulate predictions. Often, it's that one puzzle piece you stumble over when you least expect it that slams the whole thing into focus.
Over the Christmas holiday, life tends to come to a standstill, leaving us workaholics to fill in the gaps left by others with something resembling leisure. For some of us, this "break" is an opportunity to binge on information in the absence of the usual day-to-day interruptions. While everyone else was stuffing turkeys, I was stuffing my brain with Ernest Hemingway's old Toronto Star columns from 90 years ago. Little did I know that they would provide insight useful for making predictions heading into 2013.
Though he's been dead for over half a century, I bump into Hemingway often. We both started our columnist careers at Toronto newspapers before eventually moving to Paris. Then, on the airplane ride from Paris to Toronto for Christmas, there he was again on the in-flight movie screen, portrayed by Clive Owen alongside Nicole Kidman's Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Martha Gellhorn in "Hemingway and Gellhorn," the story of his wartime relationship and marriage to the renowned war correspondent.
Like all the best journalists, Hemingway constantly searched for fires into which he could run. It's that character trait, conveyed so well in the film, that has always appealed to me -- and led me to spend some holiday downtime digging through the Toronto Star archives to see what other trouble he got into. I didn't have to look far.
In 1920, Hemingway wrote in a column entitled "The Wild West Is Now In Chicago" about the city's record number of murders, noting that "one hundred and fifty murders in ten months means a murder every forty-eight hours." He also wrote of a kill list that emerged as the result of a municipal political rivalry in the 19th ward.