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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

We could have changed the world but opted for American Idol instead

By Justin Siebenhaar

December 1, 2006 | I was reading a book the other day -- On Writing, by Steven King -- in which he said something that really got me thinking. Referring to his generation, he said, "We had a chance to change the world and opted for the Home Shopping Network instead." Not only do I agree with that statement, but I think that my generation is heading down a similarly dangerous path; one that will have consequences for the entire world.

As I've thought about this I'm drawn to those generations that have been successful and those that have not. What sets them apart? I've determined that what defines a generation is not static events they affect them -- for bad things will happen to every generation -- but how that generation responds to new challenges, new technology, and new ideas. The successful ones are generally given to discipline and sacrifice, even when times are difficult. Generations and cultures that fail lend themselves to ignoring and running from problems. Difficulty and discipline are taboo words in their lexicon.

Now I have to be clear that I'm not singling out political parties or organizations. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone person in particular. And I understand that I am generalizing. That's the point: to observe trends generally. Of course there are always great people, even amid the most despicable cultures. However, I am not a moral relativist. There is a right and wrong in this world. I know it when I see it, and I bet you probably do too.

For the sake of proving my point, compare the generation of my grandparents -- what Tom Brokaw calls "the greatest generation" -- and the generation of my parents: the Baby Boomers. In all three areas they were confronted with different challenges, new technology and new ideas. In the face of challenges, one faced World War II. It was tough going. And although the media seems content on ignoring this fact, there was a huge faction of this country and the rest of the world that adopted the same mentality that we see on the world stage today: appeasement. Fortunately, that ideology didn't win out. Unfortunately, it took the death of millions of soldiers and civilians -- not to mention one of the most horrible genocides known to man -- to solve a problem that could have been prevented had the League of Nations done its job.

The Baby Boomers however, have a reference point of really only three wars: Vietnam, the Cold War, and the first Iraq war. (I am, of course leaving out the current war in Iraq; because it is still ongoing and I think it is the result of the accumulated experience of these three wars.) In the first it's widely accepted that America lost. In the second, America won without firing a shot (so to speak). And in the third, the war was "over" in weeks. So their viewpoint seems skewed in comparison to the history of warfare. Most have little knowledge of military history outside these three wars; most have never served in the armed forces.

Next is technology. I'm not just talking about TV's and radios and the Internet and cell phones. I'm talking about everything: transportation, energy, communication, medicine, etc. What is technology used for? Mostly, for making life better. But is life really better? On one level, life is only easier. But there's a difference between the two. Tasks that at one point took a very long time can be done with the push of a button. But is humanity better off? We can see how technology is used far more for diversion in daily life than education and productivity. People's lives seem busier than ever, but the idea of a liberal education has flown out the door.

Another example of this is in the area of medicine. Okay, you don't want war, what about healing the poor and curing mass disease? The continent of Africa is nearly half Muslim, how about starting there? The medicine exists; the technology to spread the message and educate people is there. The money is there. And yet with all of this at our disposal, the Red Cross reports that still more than 6,500 people (that's two 9/11's) die every day of a curable disease (tuberculosis) for which an immunization exists (for 20 cents a piece, I might add).

Finally, ideas. Political ideologies are what define this. Religious standards can translate well over generational gaps, but will always be challenged. As Alan Bennett said, "Standards are always out of date. That's what makes them standards." But do generations tend to come back to them, eventually seeing the wisdom in those long held standards? Or do they adopt catchphrases like, "if it feels good, do it"? Do they try their best to apply themselves for mankind's greater good, or do they figure that some cultures will never be able to accept such ideas as freedom and democracy?

The point of this all is that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. Of course my generation is being saturated with nothing but this secular progressive movement where the solution to combating evil is to stop calling it evil. Further, we tend to believe that we are somehow isolated. This leads to indifference towards and disconnection with duty. If this new world we live in has taught us anything it is that it can happen here.

Finally, remember that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Look around the world today, if America doesn't stand up to the problems of today, who will? And if not our generation, which?


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