The old man and the son watched the news together. Increasingly the old man
looked at the son and laughed half-heartily. "I won't be around to see it but you or your
kids are going to see the end of this civilization..." When the son first heard this thought he shrugged it off. "Ah, the old man is thinking of his own death, has denied it, and now projects death everywhere, even on the civilization!" The son thought.
The old man had seen and done much. He had flown patrol planes and B-26 bombers in the
South Pacific. He had traveled the world. He had been in Beirut right before its disintegration and had taken a taxi cab ride into the Bekka Valley. He had seen the massive poverty in India and the endless sex shops in Thailand and the Philippines. The son had been overshadowed by the great deeds of the father and while admiring him, always wanted to prove him wrong.
The one thing they did have in common was a love of history. They did not love what had happened in history but they shared a sense that all life is rooted in the past and must be used as a resource to build a present and future. Most things, good and bad, came from a perception of the past.
Days after the conversation the son was suddenly struck with an awful thought. He had been on his daily walk through the orchards of his town. He was thinking on the centuries and what they had looked like to him as he struggled to learn the past. He had discovered one common feature that ran through all centuries, including the late, lamented 20th century. At some point there is great disintegration. It is as if a climax is reached and everything unravels to unleash every possible horror an era is capable of. In the 18th century it was the American revolution and the French revolutions that created a new epoch. In the 19th century it was the Napoleanic Wars and the American Civil War, among other items. In the 20th century it was World War I and World War II, between which an earth altering depression. Now, we were in the new century. And not only did each period of disintegration end but a new era emerged from it. The legacy of each period of disintegration was the new generation of weapons, usually bigger and more powerful than the previous generation.
It was this seeming fact that begin to corrode the son's optimism and "things all work out ok..." It suddenly appeared very possible that the 21st century would disintegrate precisely when the new and awful, wrathful weapons were in the hands of crazed people with nothing to lose. After all, the Cold War was waged between countries and leaders who had everything to lose. But, now emerging was a world where millions of people had nothing to lose from the destruction of those who had much more than they had.
"You have played too fast and loose with the genie to escape its inhuman wrath." A voice had entered the son's mind but he chased it out with argument.
There was no solution, only mitigation. One was, certainly, uniting the world against
the weapons, that was the role of leadership. Two was to plan for the worst case scenario to make sure something existed after the deed. Three was to finally use modern technology to start and decentralize huge metropolitan areas; a task that would take more than one century.
Posted November 23, 2004
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