By Alan Caruba
In one’s youth, birthdays are occasions for celebration because they mark opportunities for new experiences from being able to get a license to drive to gaining the right to vote. Earlier, they can include getting one’s first bicycle or a “sweet sixteen” party. Birthdays are markers for the young.
The older one gets, birthdays take on a new meaning because life is a cycle and it comes with an unknown expiration date. I turn 71 today, October 9, and for me it is marked by the peace of mind that comes with seven decades of life. It’s called experience. It places one’s life in the context of modern and past history.
Both my parents lived well into their 90s and both lived through one of the most extraordinary centuries of the modern era. They lived through a time that spanned the first flight of the Wright Brothers to the space age. They saw the introduction of radio and were there for the first television sets, the first computers. They lived through two world wars, a succession of lesser ones, and the Great Depression.
Each generation is challenged in different ways. Ours finds itself facing an ancient threat to Western civilization, a resurgent Islam. It is called a religion and it has more than a billion adherents, but it is a seventh century cult built around the life of Mohammed and its holy books advocate a “justice” the world has struggled to abandon, from slavery to cruel punishments, from the suppression of women to a ruthless intolerance for all other beliefs.
While I can enjoy “a longer view” of life and its vicissitudes, that does not mean that my life and yours is free of familiar troubles. The sudden failure of trust in ours and the world’s banking and financial systems echoes a similar breakdown that led to more than a decade of terrible times starting in the 1930s and ending only with the defeat of totalitarian governments in Germany, Italy, and Japan. That was followed by 45 years of a Cold War waged against Soviet communism.
It also saw the beginning of the nuclear age and, in particular, the creation of the first nuclear weapons. The world has been fortunate that none have been used since the need to end World War II in the Pacific theatre. There is no guarantee they will not be used in this century and there is no more singular threat to mankind than Iran’s effort to acquire them. It combines the worst of an Islamic belief system that requires massive death and destruction to herald the return of a mythical Twelfth Imam with the capacity to deliver those horrors.
Our government, designed by the Founding Fathers to limit the role of the federal role and ensure that the powers not reserved to itself belonged to the States “or to the people”, has slid toward a socialism that has been a proven failure wherever it has been adopted. Too many Americans now look to government to protect them against taking responsibility for their own lives; a government they believe should pay their transit through life in countless ways. Yet this same government is now deeply in debt for failing to exercise fiscal responsibility.
So our times are no less dangerous than previous eras and far more crowded as more than six billion people wake up every day in need of food, clean water, and energy to power the marvelous machines we have invented to make life easier and to communicate in ways no previous generation ever imagined.
Humanity has the power to solve its problems, but humanity in terms of the 4.5 billion years of the Earth’s existence, is a very young thing, a creature not long out of the trees and standing upright. Let’s hope it gets to celebrate many more birthdays without enslaving or destroying itself.