No, this isn’t about wings all aflutter and a hurricane on the other side of the planet. This is about the side of the planet we’re all on – our own – and how, in the scheme of the great tide of history, so much has happened in such a relatively short time. I think we forget that, caught up as we are in all our thunderous self-importance.
It’s only been ninety-eight some years since women in America got the right to vote, and only another handful of years before that for Black folks – well, men that is. It’s only been eighty years since Nazis started their goose-stepping march across Europe, and only seventy some years since we decided Russia was our Enemy No. 1 (if you don’t count Trump and Putin’s one-sided bromance).
The vast majority of African countries have only been free from their colonial masters’ yokes for the last sixty years, and still we have colonies – but now we call them Puerto Rico, Guam and Washington, D.C.
That dreaded state that Americans used to refer to as wage slavery – you know, working a job for the corporate masters – has only gained preeminence among American workers in the last ninety years because before that most people lived off their skills or trades or labor untethered to a corporate boss. A meager sixty years ago the word socialism wasn’t a dirty one, and capitalism still had its critics, but I guess they’ve all been bought off by now.
Child labor, eighteen hour days and seven-day work weeks were the state of affairs of those unfortunates who lived at the mercy of the corporate masters only eighty years ago, and old folks without families to care for them routinely starving has only been unthinkable in the last seventy five years since the New Deal was ushered in on the heels of the last Great Depression.
Black men in America were lynched by the thousands for made up crimes against frail white womanhood, and make no mistake, brothas are still getting gunned down by po-po (modern day patty-rollers) on a regular basis. On the other hand, show me a Black man with money and I’ll show you, eight times out of ten, a white wife at his side. Where do you think all those mixed-race children have sprung up from over the last thirty years or so?
And to think, even as recently as when I was a child (don’t laugh) I knew people whose grandparents and certainly their great-grandparents had been slaves. Hell, for that matter, legal slavery only ended one hundred-fifty years ago, and don’t get me started on its modern day equivalent, our great and mighty prison industrial system.
Cocaine used to be legal and drinking alcohol a crime, and what used to be called patent medicine is hawked by doctors at the lucrative urging of Big Pharma, rather than on wagons rolling through towns with carny-barkers exhorting folks to “gather on ‘round and hear all about Doctor Beeswax Magical Potion.”
Modern medicine is only a few decades beyond leeches, in the scheme of things, and computers weren’t even a glimmer in science fiction authors’ eyes a scant hundred years ago.
Warfare has gone from arrows and clubs to heat seeking missiles and nuclear warheads, smart bombs that kill every living thing but save the architecture and nerve agents delivered by nanotechnology within a few hundred years.
My point is this: first, give humanity some slack, we’re still in our infancy; and second, given our history, if we make it into adolescence without self-destructing, it will be miraculous.