(Later note – This was written in 2005 – I think maybe 2020 has proven me wrong…)
If I were World Coordinator, I would immediately outlaw anyone speaking in melodramatic tones – or any tones – of our living “in extraordinary times.” To me, this is narrow-minded and bombastic talk. That we live in “changing times” or “a fascinating era” is a highly subjective point of view, like saying that Britney Spears’ latest dance opus Bare My Midriff Baby – or whatever it’s called – is a pivotal moment in music history, or that Trading Spouses represents a massive step forward in the evolution of television. Everyone knows that Britney will never top her debut, and Survivor was just as good as TV gets in teaching Americans the two-faced, manipulative, peer-ridiculing values they need to succeed as unapologetic cormorants. What, don’t you agree?
Perhaps outlawing isn’t a good answer. I, being an uncompromising advocate of free speech, would never want to criminalize expression, even if it is godlike in its moronity. Maybe public flogging with historical texts of boring eras (the Reformation, my college career), and groping by a wet Wookie. Hey, I’m in charge here.
All times are “historical times.” Current events always affect the course of history; that’s how things work, if you operate from the supposition that time is linear. The false view that current times are more exciting or relevant than others is sort of a reversal of the enhanced nostalgia to which people often fall victim – when past times in their lives seem so much better than the present (when often they weren’t). I call this dichotomy the “Inverse Era Bias.” Not very sexy, but better than “the 80’s ruled, the 90’s totally sucked, dude.” So from a personal perspective, things were better in the past, but from a societal perspective, events were never more interesting and pivotal than now. The Inverse Era Bias demonstrates, I think, the continuing separation of the individual from the community; at least in America. Was 1776, 1865, or 1945 a more important year than, say, 1993? Were the years surrounding the Norman or Mongol invasions or World War II more relevant than now? Perhaps, but how can we judge that? If the Serbians hadn’t assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, we may never have had a World War I or II. So that’s all the Serbs’ fault. Sorry, a little sarcasm there, I’m still practicing the art. If Nader hadn’t run in 2000, we would never have had to deal with the idiocies we’re dealing with now. So it’s all Nader’s fault. Well, not all of it – I can’t blame him for Global Warming.
Any important historical event is preceded by a cause or causes, which are usually other events or a succession of events. Situations are shaped by many circumstances, individuals act upon those circumstances, and create the next situation, and the cycle continues. It is also extremely subjective to put boundaries on events or eras, as in, it started here and ended here. Let the victors of future wars and political conflicts modify history to decide that.
So I admonish people everywhere, especially speech writers and commencement address deliverers, to avoid the Inverse Era Bias. Yes, the times we live in are extraordinary, fascinating, pivotal, historical, blah blah yadda yadda blah, but please don’t claim that they are more so than any other.
If I were World Coordinator, I”d have to further address this issue. But I’m not, and it’s probably better that I’m not, but hey, it’s just a point of view.