In the 20th century, there were volatile interim decades which
preceded periods of war and global change. In our 21st
century, it would appear we are in the midst of such an
interim decade in its “teen-age” (2012-19) years, although to
where and to what it will lead is far from clear.
The age from 16 to 17 can be particularly unsettling for a
young individual in our society, and so it would seem it is for
our whole planet in the years 2016 and 2017.
The world in the 1930s struggled to put itself together not
only after a violent and seemingly senseless world war, but
also after the initial blows of a global economic depression.
It also was marked by the rise of new and frightening
totalitarian ideologies, the genesis of global decolonization,
and the appearance of rapid new planet-altering technologies
in communications, transportation, consumer goods and
Very few persons who were adults in the 1930s are now alive,
so our understanding of it, like all history, is second-hand.
As I write this in April, 2017, we have just seen an historic
upset in the presidential election in the United States, and the
introduction of many about-face polices as a consequence;
the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and its separation from
the European Union (EU); a populist uprising in post-Cold War
Europe; the political and economic rise of two largest nations
on earth, China and India (both in Asia); new instability
throughout most of the continent of South America; an
intensification of an earlier wave of terrorism emanating
from the Middle East; plus new and greater patterns of
intracontinental and intercontinental migration with
accompanying disruptions; and the continuing and numbing
faster velocity of new technologies.
That, to put it colloquially, is a lot to swallow in just one year,
and doesn’t even mention or detail other perhaps less “cosmic”
circumstances and events which have occurred --- or are about
To further confuse or diminish our perception and understanding
of all this turmoil and change, the means by which we receive
this news has been compromised by the very media we depend on
to bring it to us. A hyper-subjectivity now permeates most
communications --- almost everything seems to be transmitted
with over-dressed ideological clothing. In other words, and also
colloquially, there is no “naked truth” --- or. we are told, no truth
I make two points. First, this kind of interim has happened
before, although the names and places were different. Second, if
history does instruct us, this interim is the “volatile” calm before
an historical storm.
In the interim before World War I (1904-13), and the one before
World War II (1929-38), the civilized world seemed to go like
sleepwalkers into catastrophe.
Are we, as a species, still somnambulists? Or do we, this time,
decide to wake up?
Copyright(c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.