Monday, September 14, 2009

the greatest generation? (10)

the greatest generation

what, tom brokaw, made u declaim the wwii generation greatest?
u say they were defined by their courage in war; their heroism.
u say they saved the entire world from tyranny, enslavement
& the maniacs who sought to conquer us all.

but did they:

controvert traditional prejudice
& xenopobia?
thwart or trash popular stereotypes?
tout peace & conflict resolution,
extol urbanity
bespeak, discuss or spiel
the problems of personal identity?
endorse or espouse political critique
or spiritual exploration?

or did they:

do what they were told;
conform lockstep to
the canon, character & convention
of authority;
trouble war some more;
elevate military heroism above
moral courage;
embrace simplistic propaganda;
allow the evolutionarily earlier to exclude,
repel the evolutionarily later?

is an ambiguous military heroism, tom, enough to define a
generation great? did they face & defeat conquest, checkmate
famine, vanquish plague or prevail against war?

if war is an apocalyptic evil, even a necessary evil, then what
of war heroes? should we celebrate them as nonpareil paladins
or mourn them as unnecessary sacrifices to failed policy & profit?

how well did this generation fare against the less celebrated
moral culprits of their time, the real golems & bogies: the pesky
ideas at the root of all evil?

where, tom, is the tally of victories against racism’s blitzkrieg,
sexism’s front or in the social darwinist theater; where was the
moral courage to take on anti-semitism, eugenics, corporate

greed, at home & abroad & because it was the right thing to
do? where was the noble devotion to equality & social justice;
the just confidence to meet danger in the spirit of the same?

& what will some talking head pundit say of us who succeeded
them, the children who replaced their parents? how will we will
be remembered ?

that we fought the good fight for our civil liberties, winning
them piecemeal, only to give them back piecemeal when we
looked on the frightening face of real freedom?

that we exchanged our developing moral compass for a self-
serving return to fundamental principles, rigid adherence to the
same & a choking intolerance of other views.

were we concerned with:

the decenteredness of meaning ;
the value & autonomy
of the local/particular;
thinking globally &
acting locally;
the spiritualizing of science;
the eradication of disease;
the infinite possibilities
of the human existence;
the collage & pastiche,
of multiple cultures,
perspectives, &
ways of thinking;
the sense of despair &
of modern life;
trying to fix,
reconfigure a broken
modern world?

or were we concerned with:

doing what we were told;
reframing bigotry into
moral clarity;
mongering war, glorifying
privateers of profit
& self-interest;
synonymizing military valor
with moral courage;
italicizing military domination,
unilateral action & the use
of pre-emptive force;
making the practice of
democracy a hate crime;
the political process a
stratagem of dirty tricks;
narcotic narcissism;
allowing the evolutionarily earlier
to exclude, repel, even banish the
evolutionarily later?

is an ambivalent existentialism enough to define a generation?
were the changes we affected in education, values, lifestyles,
laws, & entertainment illusory?

did we face & defeat our acute but unspecific anxiety about the
world; about our personal freedoms? what about our desire to
escape from details, to leap into the unknown & experience

reality in a new way? did we have the courage to keep peeling
away the infinite layers of meaning; to recover from our drugs,
our substances & obsessions. did we enshrine a workable

spirituality headed by a god who was not an addict? if egotism
is an apocalyptic, even a necessary evil, then what of our spiritual
egoists? should we celebrate them as trailblazers & wayshowers

or beat them back into the closets of conformity? how well have
we fared against the less celebrated moral culprits of our time,
our real demons & miscreations: the worrisome ideas at the root

of all evil: cravings for personal power, material abundance,
unmitigated sensuality, fame? where are our permanent victories
against lingering racism, persistent sexism & antisemitism,

uncloseted homophobia, unparalled corporate greed? where is
the moral courage to take on the tyranny of fundamentalism ?
we are being replaced by our children as we replaced our parents.

it is only through the lenses of opaque orthodoxy whose focus is
contrived by agreeing to conventional myopic standards that we
can envision the last generation as the greatest generation of all.

they missed their opportunities for lasting greatness as we are
missing of ours. must we now wait, hope & pray that our children
do not miss theirs as well?

©Joseph McNair; 2009

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