Friday, January 05, 2007


Drownings of the New Year

Well, here we are, with the New Year lapping over our heels, and no resolutions in sight. Not that I'm all that enthused about New Year's resolutions, or the New Year, for that matter. But it seems a fit topic for thought, before 2007 gets any deeper.

Individuals and cultures change, over time. My boss and I had a short philosophical discussion about that change, and the shape it takes. His thesis is that people no longer care about anything that does not directly affect them; moreover, interest quickly dies beyond the very short term. He thinks people used to care - our parents' generation did.

They are all of sufficiently advanced age, if still living, not to care any longer.

Pinpointing the sea changes of the culture one belongs to must be one of the hardest tasks imaginable. I cannot imagine how to do that. It's like swimming in an ocean and trying to rise up high enough to see beyond the waves.

We often observe how we detest that awful rap music, just as our parents hated rock-n-roll. Of course, our grandparents hated the music of their children, and so on, beyond living memory.

And people still complain of the same flaws from generation to generation. Ever since the sixties (my generation) the indifference of the young to social and moral responsibility appears to worsen continually.

But does it, really?

We can point to the structure of TV shows, movies and video games to see an erosion of attention spans. The news cycle gets shorter and shorter. People not much younger than myself don't read newspapers - our house is the only one on the block with regular delivery. Ours is also the only one with a re-cycling bin at the curb every week.

But we can see very clearly that something in American culture has changed - as if the waters we swim in had cooled, or the waves become rougher. Silly us, we forgot to pack the thermometer.

It is said that a culture and a society, particularly a democracy, gets the leadership it deserves. A rougher, cruder nation earns rougher, cruder leaders. Where are the Truman's, the Adlai Stevensons, the Kennedys of today? If we don't vote - and the number of people exercising that right continues to decline - we mute our own voices. The loudest, emptiest voices are all that's heard. We get stuck with dull, dumb leaders lacking in foresight but full of themselves and arrogant pride, drowning out the sounds of moderation, temperance and wisdom.

If we remain silent when injustices are inflicted on others, then only time lies between us and fresh pain.

This New Year marks the start of a new presidential campaign. (Does a shorter attention span require a longer campaign season?) As of today, ten men and women are running for president.

How's this for a resolution: I resolve to work to deserve the best leadership.

Happy Bloody New Year.

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