Here Thar Be Monsters!

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The Curse

Make no mistake about it: I am cursed.

Some, like my father the historian, might jump up and down, waving his hands wildly, exclaiming in breathless eptithets that 'we are witnessing history!'  I prefer to see myself as an esoteric surfer pipelining a tsunami, watching as it swamps culture after culture, but helpless to ameliorate even the slightest part of its fury.

I am doomed to relive the 1960s US over and over again.  At first, it was exciting to 'witness history', but having seen what it did to the US, and then to Ireland, Germany, the Czech Republic, I am loathe to watch it replay.

Here's the playbook:

One generation becomes fabulously affluent by mistake or design (listen to my interview with John Perkins).  That generation becomes overly indulgent of their progeny, to the point of completely ignoring them.  Meanwhile, the prevailing political system, ashamed of its own history, has altered the past, and in most cases has ceased teaching it at all (such is the sin of public education).

As a consequence, the children become completely self-absorbed.  They are like tumbleweeds in a California drought - without roots and subject to the vagaries of the wind.  They become mindless consumers, unable to save or even survive on less than an opulent lifestyle.  They being to question everything.  They see the old structure as standing in the way of their insatiable need to self-gratification.  The old rules are as quaint and divorced of meaning as Carter's Liver Pills.

As their parents age, they come to the crashing conclusion that they have erred in some fundamental and horrible way, but it's too late to rectify the situation.  The children, having attained adulthood themselves, no longer listen.  The parents become alarmed and swing wildly in the opposite direction, toward unbridled conservatism.  Infuriated, the younger generation openly rebel and the culture suffers a massive upheaval, a convulsion of epic proportions.

Thus, the wisdom of centuries is lost, locked away in dusty tomes that no one reads anymore.  History becomes radically uncool and no one with any snap will touch it, for fear of being rejected as part of the 'old way' and a sympathizer with the System.

Now, utterly without guidance, both by design and by choice, the new generation goes on a bender, consuming and lusting in way that would instantly kill their elders.  But they survive and thrive and pass it on to their own children, who take it even further.

In Ireland, the were blinded by greed and avarice, and have ended up in the crushing poverty that their grandfathers knew all too well.  In Germany, they idolized the mechanistic part of their souls while leaving the humanistic part to wither like picked over grapes.  In the Czech Republic, they frittered away their cultural heritage and revolutionary fervor to languish in near obscurity.  In Russia, they have returned to the Czarist Orthodoxy in a way similar to neo-paganism - all form and no context.

In the US, they have realized their worst nightmares, as envisioned for them by Hollywood.  They created an empire of good intentions.  The unique dystopia that is contemporary America would go down in history as a warning to the future, except that no one will remember because history is a dirty word.

Now it is happening in Indonesia.  They are following the playbook step by faltering step.  The government has banned history lessons to hide its sins.  The current generation in power has become fabulously affluent.  The children have been left behind as mere consequences of the high life.  The younger generation has no tempering of struggle and want, and so blazes forth with unbridled desires.  Even the outgoing president is analogous to Eisenhauer, and the heir apparent is warmed-over JFK.

There's the oppressive and over-reactive religious majority determined to reform or bring the whole thing down in ashes.  There are simmering civil rights issues that are willfully and callously unaddressed.  Half the population, called female by most, are suddenly realizing their power.  And pork and package liquor can be found most anyplace now (a significant development, I assure you).

The tide is coming, in a way that will make the 2004 Aceh wave look like a Sunday picnic at the beach.  There will be no cultural stone unturned and ultimately rejected out of hand.

Yes, it is a curse to watch this happen again and again, for not once have I seen good come from it.  It has left ancient and rich cultures hollowed out like worm-eaten apple flesh - what remains is but a shell of its former glory.

Perhaps I am over-sensitive.  Maybe being raised by an historian has colored my glasses a sickly green, rather than rosy pink.  Perhaps I'm just one of those curmudgeonly grouses that try to hold back progress out of some warped fixation with the past.  One could easily dismiss my observations as longing for the 'old ways' or misplaced conservatism.

Having witnessed up close the gutting of so many great cultures and the stench of cynicism and hopelessness left in its wake, and having seen it happen in one country after another, I begin to detect the outlines of A Plan.

Without roots, the greatest trees are easily toppled, and if one has designs on dominating nations, one could not do better than to sever the roots of a nation before giving a light push in any direction one so chooses.

Perhaps Indonesia would do well to step back a moment and inventory the past.  Lessons are often hard-won by people who had no choice but to fight.  At the moment, we have a choice.  Shouldn't we take one last long breath of cool breeze before leaping blindly off the cliff of the unknown?

Pay special attention to patterns because that's how career thieves and murderers give themselves away.  They are locked into self-reinforcing feedback loops from which they cannot escape.  All we need to do is look for the telltale clues that will guide our thoughts going forward.