Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts On An Upcoming Anniversary

"In 1961 a copywriter named Shirley Polykoff was working for the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency on the Clairol hair-dye account when she came up with the line: 'If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a blonde!' In a single slogan she had summed up what might be described as the secular side of the Me Decade. 'If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a—!' (You have only to fill in the blank.)" --Tom Wolfe, "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening," New York magazine, August 1976

When was it that people stopped caring about anyone other than themselves? Was it in the so-called Me Decade, the 1970s, as Tom Wolfe thought? Or was it something that slowly gained momentum throughout the postwar years, during the years of affluence and (relative) peace (the Vietnam War notwithstanding), and just reached a peak in the 1970s before the oil crisis and recession halted its progress?

There certainly was a resurgence of "me first" in the 1980s and 1990s. A lot of people got very rich by looking out for themselves first. "Wealth hoarders" grew in numbers; there were some of us who wondered why they needed so much money. Just how many houses, cars, wives, husbands, . . . did they need? But they were all looking out for number one, and who cared if other people were falling way behind?

And now we are all being told by the media to reflect on the 10 years since 9/11. All I can see is that what was a life-changing event for many people, one that should have ended "me first" once and for all, has been pushed to the margins, and we've become even more selfish and "me"-thinking than we were in the few days, maybe weeks, following 9/11.

We are a nasty, vitriolic, selfish nation -- and we're not the only one on the planet. Globalization, which was meant to bring people all over the world together in a spirit of cooperation, has just made everyone more inward-looking and concerned with themselves.

And the ones who are hurt most by this are the children, the youngest generation. We have systematically destroyed their education, most particularly their cultural and creative education, and given them nothing to look forward to or hope for. The oldest generation thinks, "Why should I support education? I did that for years when my kids were growing up, and I'm done with that." The middle generation thinks, "Why should I care about anyone but myself? I'm struggling to survive!"

If we did care about each other, maybe the struggle for survival would be lessened -- or at least we'd have some company in the struggle! And if the oldest helped to look out for the youngest, there would be all sorts of benefits for both.

Every day I come up against people who are blatantly looking out for themselves, and to them I say (viz. Howard Beale [Network]): "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" I will continue to fight to make people wake up and think about other people; I am putting you all on notice.

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