I like to watch baseball on TV and often times a great play or time at bat will be talked about by the announcers who will then ask, “Who was the last player to do that?” “Maybe the guys upstairs can tell us the last time an American League pitcher struck out seven straight left handed batters on his birthday?” The next inning the answer comes back that it was Squeaky Myers of the old Washington Senators in a game against the White Sox in Chicago on July 14, 1951 and then maybe some film of old Squeak will pop up on the screen. Along with discussing the accomplishment there will be a few comments about the old uniforms or Comiskey Park or how it’s probably a good thing that men don’t wear suits to the ball park anymore. The game of baseball has remained pretty much the same and Squeaky was a pretty good pitcher but did you see the chest protectors the umps used and how about the guys wearing fedoras in the stands? The superficial differences make things seem as being of another time and foreign.
While watching a 9/11 eleventh anniversary documentary I noticed that things still look pretty much the same. It’s only been eleven years so the same planes are used today, the safety forces uniforms are the same and the people pictured were all covered with ash so the hair styles and fashions could not be seen. It won’t be long though before we’ll start to notice the differences, “look at that police car, my dad had a blue one just like that”, “Remember the 737?, that was a nice plane.” The interviews with firemen will include the number of 9/11 survivors who have died or retired and 9/11 will turn into Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination and become just another something that grandparents talk about. It becomes easy to believe that there is really no reason to look back.
There was a time when an independent person tried hard, learned from experience and used the lessons of personal successes and failures and the successes and failures of others to become successful in life however that might be defined. An individual’s hard work created a respect for the experiences and efforts of those who came before. Behavior was influenced by not only wanting to please those who were respected but also by not wanting to disappoint those same people. There was a desire to live up to the standards of society which had developed over centuries.
For societies that exist in a world where little or nothing changes there is good reason to respect the elders of the community and learn from their experiences in that world. In our society it is very easy to assume that there is nothing to be learned from a previous generation let alone from history. If I have instant access to answers to my questions of “where am I?”, “how should I invest my money?” and “who is competing on “American Idol?”, then what do I have to gain from the experiences of someone who had trouble setting the clock on a device that was called a VCR? The technology which created the iPhone is built on, replaced and made the previous technology obsolete. It is easy to see history in the same light: all of history has been building to this moment in time and replacing all that came before. The view of today as being superior to yesterday has created an arrogance that keeps us from even considering the lessons of the past. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” has changed to, “those who remember history are wasting their time”.
Many seem to believe that since there is little or nothing to be gained from the past or from those who do not use the Google path to answer life’s questions there is no reason to use the old standards and old measures of success. We are becoming a society that expects to be able to have the answers without knowing anything about the issues which create the questions in the first place. Analysis? Why spend time considering the problem? Just look for the answer that is listed first, if it’s listed first out of all the entries it must be the best. Live a good life? What does that mean, whose good is that? Raise a family? Who defines what a family is anyway? Do a good job? Does that simply mean I am good at enriching someone else? Now that I have the answers what is the value of experience? Now that I have the answers I’ll write the questions. Am I a good person? Yes. How do I know? Because I define the things that are important and I know how to get to the definition of good that I want to see. It took many years and a great deal of effort on the part of my parents to raise a family which then, when they were successful, identified them as being good. Now I can define myself as being good simply by wearing a ribbon, slapping on a bumper sticker or getting a nod from another self described good person. If I have the answers, and I do, I can define those who do not accept those answers as not only being wrong but not good—evil.
Technology has made it possible for us to see ourselves as being superior without any effort being required on our part. We are superior simply because we have access to and accept the information made available by the new technology. We are superior and right because we say so. I suppose there may be some things we can learn from the history and the lives of others but did you see the clothes they were wearing and how about those hair styles?
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward a cause or position. With little or no understanding of problems required and no consideration of the possibility that there is any value in opposing points of view the emphasis changes from winning the debate on facts and arguments to demonizing those who are considered as being the opponent: we are right because we are us, they are wrong because they are not us. By defining ourselves as being good we now make it possible to link up with other “good” people who support other “good” beliefs or causes to create a political group that cannot be opposed on any subject. Hurray for our side, hurray for our coalition of people who consider ourselves to be absolutely right and good, hurray.” Fear of being branded as evil and losing the team’s backing for our pet causes eliminates the possibility of meaningful internal opposition within the coalition to any of the “good” issues and creates a movement with no standards and an arbitrary tolerance of everything. Become the leader and you can create new parts of the coalition, grow the group and its power and grow your own power. Become the leader of this coalition and you never have to fear meaningful opposition. Become the leader of this coalition and you can take it anywhere you want to go.
I would like to think that there is a way to oppose this type of political action but I don’t see it right now. Just saying that I would like to think that there is a way to oppose it labels me as being evil and you don’t have to watch the news very long before you come across the labeling of opponents and the calls for elimination of that opposition.
My fear, as I see what is happening, is that on the timeline of history the creation of the United States of America represents a bright light that had not been seen before and that now after less than 250 years we are seeing that light fade away.