Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't Look Down

"Times change, people don't" is a phrase I heard my father use a lot. The ancient Greeks complained about many of the same things we do now: the costs of living, political corruption, the pitfalls of relationships and so on. They enjoyed sports, family gatherings, and leisure activities. And, sadly, they also fought wars.

Tens of millennia have not altered the basic underpinnings of human behavior. And over those years, many of the rhythms of life remained the same: tied to the seasons, cooperative, and family-centered. We grew crops, tended animals, and raised our kids. We unconsciously worked to become like our parents, to live a life similar to theirs. Traditions were handed down and over time, different families spread far enough apart to become separate entities. But on the whole, the similarities, both horizontal (across tribes and nations) and vertical (across time), far outweighed the differences. The river of our predecession ran back smooth and straight.

However, quite recently in our history, we began to see fluctuations in those two coordinates. It began with a disconnection from our past, a superimposition of the unending present upon the path leading down from our ancestors, through us, to our unseen descendants. When roots are cut, the tree shall ultimately die. And can it not be said that those who lose that thread are dying now?

We decided that the "old ways" were archaic. Male and female life roles were rejected. The family was diminished. The mental exercise-made-real which we call money became more important than our time. Any lifestyle was a go, provided it had not generally been accepted before. "Role reversal" became a media-promoted goal. We left behind traditions, norms and values.

The second tremor started with our separation from our extended families. Neighborhoods began to change, homogeneity disintegrated. Dislocation prevailed. We walked through Alice's mirror and we were changed, alright.

During the 1990's, after the hand-over of power from de Klerk to Mandela in South Africa, I heard a remarkable comment. A friend who was in no way racially-oriented said, "White people were said to be the oppressors in South Africa because they were a small intolerant minority not yielding to the deserving Blacks and 'Coloreds'. Yet, in America and the UK, Whites were seen in the same way, but this time because they were the intolerant majority!"

Was that the March Hare, chuckling?

Although these divergences began the destructive cancer which is now long upon us as a People, the most immediately dangerous changes occurred in the recent past. Prior to the 20th Century, humans had no practical way to self-exterminate. That changed in the mid-1940's. We now live in a world where today literally could be our last, as a People and as a species. We might even permanently sterilize the planet forever. True and absolute 'Götterdämmerung', the 'Twilight of the gods'. Why would even Thor's son wish to live in such a barren world?

We have stayed away from our posts for a long time, three generations now. Over that time, we moved from a life of continuity to one of perpetual paranoia. Why?

I was told recently that moving out of the path of full-bore lunacy was actually "running away". The person who said that lives in a very different world than I do. My daily life tells me, in hundreds of ways, subtle and not so, that things are not getting better. My reality check tells me that, unless about 200 million people say, "Enough!", nothing will change. And even if the tide turns, the results may be unavoidable.

We are at a point of confluence, a merger of dozens of forces. Not supernatural hocus-pocus, but real-life freight trains of misdirected fate: the teetering economy, destruction of privacy, expansion of police-state activities, dispossession of certain groups by others, alignments of foreign powers and so on. This is a time when things will break in one of two directions. Either a groundswell will break us out of our current situation and re-establish rational equilibrium, or the world becomes a huge self-destruct mechanism. It's our call.

No comments: