Friday, April 07, 2006

The History of Me

No, it's not a personal entry. It's political philosophy.
After the cold war ended and the wall fell, we entered into a period of relative serenity. History was behind us.

History was behind us. It was something our parents entered for a while during the war but they emerged into what was, essentially, the long peace. They'd had enough history, didn't want any more, and did what they could to keep history from happening. In general, the history of the Cold War is the history of what didn't happen punctuated by a few things every now and then such as Korea and Vietnam. But all in all, for over 50 years, history didn't happen.

With the end of the Soviet Union in a whimper and not a bang brighter than the sun on earth, history was officially over. The moment even got its own book, "The End of History," which stimulated an argument that even more than the book emphasized that history was over.

Most sensible people liked it that way. In fact, a lot of people really liked it that way. Because if history for the world was over, these people could get on making the history that really mattered to them: The History of Me.

More and more throughout the 90s "History" was "out," and "Me" was in. "Me," "Having My Space," "How to Be Your Own Best Friend," "Me, Myself, I," were hallmarks of that self-besotted age. The History of Me was huge in the 90s and rolled right through the millennium. It even had a Customized President to preside over those years; the Most Me President ever. A perfect man for the time and one who, in the end, did not disappoint in choosing "Me" over "Country." How could he do otherwise? It was the option his constituency of Many-Million-Mes elected him to select. I know because I was into Me then and I voted for him because, well, because he seemed to be "just like me." It was a sad day when "Me" couldn't run for a third term, but The Party of Me offered up "Mini-Me" and a lot of Mes turned out for him too.

That's right, the Me generation took over. The 90s were a period of excess, technology, booming stock markets and most of all peace in America. The minor skirmishes, like Bosnia and Somalia couldn't break the fun. No longer did we have to worry about anything but having fun.
And then 9/11 happened.
It was better when we lived in The History of Me. We knew how Me would end -- birth, fun, school, fun, job, fun, family, fun, age, fun, death and then ... probably fun, who knew, who cared? The meaning of this history was not deep but was to be found in the world "fun." Mini-Mes love fun. You could almost say it is their religion, a religion of fun. A funny concept, fun. Fills the space between birth and death. "He was a fun guy" could be a generic epitaph for the era. Now we find ourselves back in history as it has always been and it is not fun. Not fun at all. The history of history has little to do with fun, almost nothing at all. Most of the Mini-Mes don't know what to do in a history that isn't fun. All their lives have been about shaping history towards fun and they've been having a good run at it. They like it so much, they are now willing to do anything to bring it back -- the Kennedy Era, such elegant fun; the Clinton Years, "Hey, we partied like it was 1999." In the run-up to the last election and now for the next, there's been and there will be a lot of code swapped about getting the fun back in the game. "Remember the fun of the 90s? You can have it all back. Peace. Love. Understanding. Stock-market Boom. Money. Any number of genders can play." Indeed, these Merry Pranksters of our politics are setting up to run "The Bride of Fun" for President in 2008, even though it is clear she is the least fun of any of them.
We need to return to a national identity and ideal that thinks about Us, not Me. Because in history "little will be required of Me, but much from Us."
At this point I must entreat you to read the entire article. If you don't your missing good stuff.

And, finishing that, I would like to add that this push toward the Me isn't really all that surprising. Nor is the resistance with which the Mes out there are putting up in order to convince themselves that they are still outside history and that there is no war. Or no reason to fight any more. They want to go back to that happy time where they didn't have to show resolve and sacrifice.
But this is human nature. We wish to avoid the horrible things we must face in this life. And our nature, Christianity would call it our sinful nature, prompts us to think about the Me. The government should leave Me alone, except in the areas that are important to Me. Government should make it easier for me to make money and have nice things, regardless of how hard I'm willing to work. Why should I have to suffer for something that's not MY fault.
But we cannot escape history. History did not end in 1989. Nor will it end when the war on terror is over. Things like hurricanes and tsunamis constantly remind us of that. People dying in places like Darfur and Zimbabwe remind us of that. Or they should.

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