Saturday, September 18, 2010

Are We In Crisis?

The gloom and doom projected by a young man I know, despite his own personal good fortune, makes me revisit a question I have been nursing since about 1968: Are our own times more fraught with high risks, shocking inequality and challenges that defy solution than any other?

Yes and no.

In a solipsistic sense, we always live times of crisis, a moment of decisive change; we are changing, therefore the world is. Moreover, historical change appears to have accelerated, perhaps since 1914. Finally, economic trendlines that tell us that, yes, the recession experienced by millions involves peaks in joblessness and poverty.

However, although my stomach says the world exists to feed me, my eyes and ears do an even better job of convincing me that people and things exist beyond my control, in most cases untroubled by my particular worries.

Change, similarly, it is arguably slowing down. One of my grandfathers was born in the day of the buggy and the oil lamp and died during the decade of the first computers and atomic bombs. My parents were born before radio, penicillin and nylon, but were gone before the World Wide Web. A once-print journalist, I may see the demise of newspapers written on the wall, yet little will exist the day I die that wasn't already a gadget in the Dick Tracy comic strip when I was a child.

Oh, and specialists have been saying for about a year that the recession is technically over.

Therefore, I commend you to the words of Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on June 16, 1940, when Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany and its impending bombing blitz.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.
The British Empire did not outlive Churchill, who died in 1965. Yet who today doubts that 1940 was the Brits' finest hour?

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