It’s a thought that occurs to me, every once in a while. It’s not a regular thing. If I had to try to guess and put an estimate on it, I think it might be something that pops into my head, I don’t know, maybe a few times in any given span of a year. The thought takes a form something like “I miss Rod Serling… we could really use having this guy around now“.
The Twilight Zone was on the air on CBS from 1959-1964. Seeing those shows now, as half century old television productions, it looks and generally seems like a glimpse of ancient anachronisms, but that stuff still holds up. The stories varied over the time of the series, as did the quality, but at its best, The Twilight Zone was a great and lasting example of a particular kind of dramatic narrative: the morality tale.
There are a lot of people around who could probably use their own personal Twilight Zone episode.
In a musical recording forum where I’m a regular, a thread titled “Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Shot” carried on for a while following the awful, disturbing, disgusting event it referred to, a busy conversation that included thoughts from a lot of the forum members, many of them from around the world. One of them, a guy in Switzerland, wrote:
Just history repeating itself 80 years later in another country where real incomes have dropped, the people are frustrated, and dangerous demagogues are riling the population to violence against the “enemy within”.
I added my note to the thread, quoting that comment, and then writing:
This is a thing to meditate upon. Very seriously.
Even more so given how easily you can look around here and find people chattering through television, radio, and assorted websites about “American exceptionalism” and ideas that, somehow, whatever we do is right because “we’re The Good Guys”, and other things of the sort. People who, for example, seem not just comfortable with some concept of the U.S. being some sort of ruling empire of the whole planet, but maybe even insistent that this is the only right way for things to be.
A lot of people seem to have an attitude like “it can’t happen here!”, when it’s exactly the kind of stuff I’m talking about that would allow such things to happen, to repeat history in a very ugly way.
On the wall of the classroom of my 8th grade history class, the teacher had a sign with a quote by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”. This stuck in my head. It might be one of the most profound and important things ever said by a human being.
Today, we have people who don’t seem to know very much history, if any, sitting around in front of televisions listening to the babbling of Glenn Beck, believing that they’re actually learning something, building a whole class of horrifically misled and confused people. He’s not alone, but he’s the worst.
As the most capable charlatans and con men do, he manages to get just enough occasional true bits of fact in and say something now and then that actually does make sense, to hook people into following along, not understanding that most of the time, he’s utterly, grossly, full of shit.
He’s an alcoholic radio “whacky morning crew” radio clown who got a little stale and old and decided that “political commentator” was a more respectable career tack with a future, whose one and only skill or talent is that he IS, in fact, very capable at the craft of manipulating the shit out of gullible and undereducated people.
The repercussions are ugly.
It is perhaps at its worst when this dipshit gets into the subject of Nazi Germany.
A little serious study of Germany from about 1920 to 1945 is one of the more important cautionary tales available.
It’s easy for people to get and hold an idea in their head of the German people of the time as some kind of cartoon villain monsters. What was more the true story was a nation of people feeling like they got a raw deal at the end of World War One, in really bad economic times, with a culture of national pride, ready and primed for a batch of manipulative megalomaniacs pumping people up with a kind of jingoistic nationalism, appealing to people with talk of a return to some idealistic mighty glory days of the past and a better future of strength and prosperity and order, and presenting people with a ready easy list of an assortment of enemy “Others” who were in the way and the cause of all the problems.
They gathered strength by appealing to a combination of gullible morons, desperate and confused people, and people who just simply thought they could get a pretty good situation for themselves out of all this.
People who were educated and smart and honest enough to see the madness brewing were ridiculed, intimidated, and eventually physically attacked, and the population was fed with talk about “liberals and intellectuals” being among the terrible evil Others who were part of the problems.
Here, today, it isn’t that bad. For now.
What could end up with things becoming that horrifically bad is people thinking “oh, that could never happen here in our fine nation” and not waking the fuck up until it’s too late.
History might not repeat, but sometimes it rhymes. With that goes something else. One lesson to be learned from history is that too often, people fail to learn from history.
I’ve found myself writing in this space on a few themes that tend to repeat, and there’s an underlying and overhanging theme running through much of the stuff; people being various combinations of confused, ignorant, distracted and diverted and just plain oblivious to matters all around us and smacking us in the face. Here in the US, we have a lot of good people dealing with the problems and noise of too many of the wrong people dominating attention, and a general lack of a consensus about reality based on things as they are. A lot of people are way too busy blowing smoke up each other’s asses, and their own.
It’s not exclusive to the United States, there are problems like this in more areas of planet Earth than just here, but we’ve got an epidemic of detachment from reality here, and it’s hard to get through to the people who need to understand this the most. That’s the dilemma.
The people who need a wakeup most are too busy dancing around and admiring how fucking wonderful they look in the reflections of the funhouse mirrors.