Thursday, April 18, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Curious Constancy

In reading about the events of the past century, it is evident
that, while each generation had different circumstances and
different players, certain patterns of events continue to occur.

This past week illustrates this clearly. The terror attack at the
Boston Marathon, the large earthquake in Iran, the devastating
explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas, the continuing civil war
in Syria, the worldwide economic crisis, the threats from North
Korea, the stalemate of legislation in the U.S. Congress and the
publicity-seeking antics of various Hollywood and other
entertainers all are recurring themes in events of the past 100 years.

Terrorism, in its modern form, emerged at the end of the 19th
century, and has played a major part in world history ever since.
Natural disasters occur with asymmetric regularity. Significant
man-made disasters happen with unfortunate constancy. And
those in the entertainment industry, from film stars to pop
musicians, continue to distract the media and popular culture
from ongoing crises and problems.  Civil wars based on ethnicity
or religion have been commonplace for more than 100 years.
Periodic economic crises have been common. Individual despots
and dictators have appeared almost routinely for generations.
Finally, the inability of most legislative bodies, be they
congresses or parliaments, to make necessary reform or change,
thwarts democratic societies perhaps when the legislative
branch of government is most needed.

Now it is probably valid to say that over many centuries, historical
event patterns do change, excluding patterns of natural events beyond
humanity’s control. Before democratic capitalism, terrorism per se
was rare, before the revolution in communication technology, “stars”
and popular icons had limited appeal, until the American revolution
and subsequent revolutions in Europe and elsewhere, legislative action
was mostly by royal decree. Global trade, as we know it, was limited,
slow, and primitive. Since most rulers were kings, today’s
variety of totalitarianism did not exist, and national states were
put together by geography, not demographics; today’s international
tensions could not exist. And until the industrial revolution, and the
population "explosion," large-scale man-made disasters were very rare.

My point is not to denigrate modern societies, cultures and
technologies. Considering the advances in health, freedom, mobility,
transportation, communications and culture, they far outweigh the
problems and pathologies which accompany them. But I do suggest
that if we want to rise to the next level of our human civilization, we
need to understand better the forces set into motion by what we are
doing by attempting to live together in some kind of harmony and
tolerance, and in such large numbers, as we move to the next stages
of human life.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

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