A New Millennium
February 10, 2000
A New Millennium, Really
Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have the remarkable good fortune to be alive and conscious during one of the most eventful eras in human history.
The human race has just entered a New Millennium, the third, reckoning by the calendar in use throughout the industrialized world. Is this a significant event? Yes it is. It would be easy to dismiss the millennium as an arbitary calendar event, which in a sense it is. But as the visionary transpersonal psychologist William Brugh Joy noted this New Year's Eve at a millennial celebration at Asilomar, California, such a naively rationalistic way of viewing the event completely misses the point.
The fact is chronological events are laden with enormous emotional significance to the human psyche, consciously and unconsciously, whether the rationalists among us care to admit it or not. Everyone in attendance was aware that the "true" millennium, as reknowned astronomer and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke made abundantly clear to movie audiences in 1968, is 2001, not 2000. They were also aware however that the human subconscious operates in a different manner than the rational mind.
Take birthdays. Whom among us would seriously argue that our 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays, for example, in our youth-fixated modern society, are not emotionally more traumatic than other birthdates?
A Sobering Exercise
Try this exercise. On a sheet of paper, write down the year of your birth. Say you're an early Baby Boomer and were born in 1946. Write down 1946. Add ten years to that and write it down, i.e., 1956. Repeat ten times, until you've reached the year 2046. Now next to 1946 write 0, next to 1956 write 10, next to 1966 write 20, and so on, until you've written 100 next to the year 2046.
What's the point of this? To remind ourselves that even when all we can see are trees, we're in the middle of a forest.
First, you will not live forever. One hundred years if you are lucky.
Second, you are locked into a specific timeframe. This is your place in human history. The chart reveals your life's stages, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and so on, and matches them to specific moments in mankind's history. SF novelist H.G. Wells to the contrary notwithstanding, you may move about freely in space, but you may not move about freely in time.
As the title of the daytime soap opera puts it, these are the "Days of Our Lives."
Our Cult of Youth
We in the industrialized world, Americans in particular, live in anxious denial of Life in its totality, which necessarily encompasses the mystery of aging and mortality, aka, Death. Few character templates for aging gracefully exist in our modern society. Veteran British actor Sean Connery, aka James Bond 007, who makes no effort whatsoever to deny or conceal his age, is an all too rare exception. A real Class Act. One upside of our Cult of Youth is our culture's irrepressible vitality and energy. Among its downsides is our culture's blindness to the possibility that any other stage of life besides youth could possibly have any value. Certainly not Eldership.
We, the Living Fossils
Already, one month's worth of human beings have been born whose birth year begins with a 2 instead of a 1. Every one of us, the WWII generation, post-war Baby Boomers, Gen-X'ers, even Gen-Y'ers, every one born in the Twentieth Century, every one whose birthyear begins with a 1 instead of a 2, belongs in a sense to the last century, to the last millennium. Assuming the first Y2K generation mindlessly adopts the dysfunctional, youth-fixated perspective of previous generations, the rest of us will be dismissed as "living fossils" or "relics of the last century," sooner than we care to imagine.
So. Anybody in favor of re-examining our values?
The Long View, the Big Picture
A pernicious corollary to our denigration of Eldership, is our myopic, almost infantile inability to delay gratification, to take the long view, to see the big picture.
China-demonizers for example, who have been itching for a showdown with Beijing, their latest nominee for the role of Son of Evil Empire now that the Soviet Union is no more, have been grumbling loudly that "Constructive engagement with China has failed! We tried it for seven years under Clinton and what does Beijing do? Round up a few more dissidents!"
Contrast this with an amusing real life anecdote, now a little shopworn from repetition, about the late Chinese Premier Chou Enlai. Chou was asked by a western journalist what he thought of the French Revolution. Chou paused, then remarked "It's too early to say."
Republican government, like Rome, wasn't built in a day.
These United States? Or The United States?
The United States of America used to be referred to, correctly, as These United States of America. Rare today is the American who refers to our great nation as These United States. This distinction may seem trivial, but it is not.
These United States of America came into being in 1776. By 1876 America was 100 years old. By 1976 she was 200 years old, and These United States, along with our Founding Fathers' prescient insights about human nature and human institutions, were a distant memory. America alas, is no longer a federation of sovereign states, but a federal Leviathan, with immense unchecked power concentrated perilously in our national capitol.
Millennial, centennial, even decade transitions have traditionally been occasions for human societies to reflect on the past, and having done so, resolve to do better. What does the New Millennium hold for America? A restoration of our great Republic, or further calamitous descent into decadent and arrogant Global Empire?
Be the Change you wish to See
America's Founding Fathers, contrary to the smug assumptions of modern day global interventionists, were way ahead of the curve.
Our Founding Fathers understood, as our post-Woodrow Wilsonian, post-Teddy Rooseveltian Beltway Bombardiers do not, that no good can come of a global Jihad waged in the name of "American values," "human rights," and "democracy."
Our Founding Fathers understood, as the late Mahatma Gandhi understood, but as China-demonizers Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, and John McCain do not, that "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," that "You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."
Our Founding Fathers understood, as Henry Clay understood, but as Taiwan and Tibetan "independence" mouthpieces Jesse Helms, Frank Wolf, and Nancy Pelosi do not, that:
"By the policy to which we have adhered since the days of Washington... we have done more for the cause of liberty in the world than arms could effect; we have shown to other nations the way to greatness and happiness... Far better is it for ourselves... and the cause of liberty, that, adhering to our pacific system and avoiding... distant wars... we should keep our lamp burning on this western shore amid the ruins of a fallen and falling republics... "
Our Founding Fathers understood, as our interventionist nomenklatura does not, that expanding the power of ones' own government so that it might diminish the power of tyrannical governments abroad, is like attempting to extinguish a fire by dousing it with gasoline.
Government, lest we forget, is the problem. Government is not the solution. Never has been, never will be. Not in mainland China under Mao Zedong. Not in Taiwan under Lee Teng-hui. Not in America under almost any Twentieth Century president one cares to name.
Refraining from sanctimonious moralizing, refraining from foreign economic intervention, refraining from foreign political intervention, and above all, refraining from foreign military intervention, is not an sign of American decline, is not a disownment of moral responsibility, is not indifference to "American values," but the exact opposite.
A refusal to disown ones' own inner demons by conveniently projecting them onto alien "evildoers," is infinitely more responsible, ethically and morally, than pointing one's finger at distant foreign regimes in lieu of painful national soul-searching regarding our own transgressions. Political reform, like charity, begins at home. As Brugh Joy reminds us, when we point the finger at someone "out there," three fingers point back at ourselves.
The Government they Deserve
"People usually get the government they deserve."
Perhaps the only exception to this harsh assessment is non-mainstream radicals, including but not limited to classical liberals and libertarians who have explicitly rejected the status quo.
Under so-called "democratic" systems at least, one need not search high and low for those responsible for bad government, i.e., Big Government. If you voted for the leeches taking up space in Washington, D.C., if you voted for free lunches, if you voted to rob Peter to pay Paul, if you wrote indignant letters to your congressman demanding that "we" dispatch B-2 bombers or the Seventh Fleet "to teach them a lesson," you already know who's responsible for the tyranny Americans must endure at home, from our own federal Leviathan. Simply look in the mirror while you're shaving tomorrow if you want to see what he looks like.
The Unlearned Lesson of 1989
In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, without a shot being fired. Why?
Because the consciousness of a critical mass of the people of the Warsaw Pact nations transformed, apparently overnight. It was as if the populace of the Eastern Bloc woke up one morning, in unison, and said to themselves, "Hey! Socialism doesn't work! I changed my mind."
We know of course it didn't really happen that way. When Marxism-Leninism finally collapsed under its own weight, it only looked as if it happened overnight. In fact it took four decades for the realization that socialism is economically impracticable not to mention morally wrong, to penetrate the minds of enough people to bring the Berlin Wall crashing down.
Dream a Little Dream
Have you ever wondered why the movies Hollywood makes resonate not only with Americans, but with the rest of the world? It's because commercially successful popular movies originate in what the late psychoanalyst Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious.
Hollywood has been dubbed the Dream Factory. Those who conferred this appellation on La La Land are more insightful than even they themselves realize. Just as an individual's dreams reflect the state of consciousness of the individual, so collective dreams reflect the state of consciousness of larger society. Motion pictures are modern society's collective dreams. Popular films, especially Hollywood blockbusters with global appeal, constitute windows into the modern world's Collective Unconscious.
Like it or not, Hollywood, kneejerk liberal warts and all, is the modern world's Dream Factory.
The Dreamer Wakes
During 1998 and 1999, the final years of the final decade of the Second Millennium, a series of highly revealing "collective dreams" manifested themselves in the form of popular movies. They include but are not limited to:
-- The Truman Show (1998) Directed by Peter Weir. Written by Andrew Niccol
-- Dark City (1998) Directed by Alex Proyas. Written by Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer
-- The Thirteenth Floor (1999) Directed by Josef Rusnak. Written by Daniel F. Galouye and Josef Rusnak
-- The Matrix (1999) Written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski
Also extremely deserving of mention is:
-- Groundhog Day (1993) Directed by Harold Ramis. Written by Danny Rubin
Those who have seen all, or even some of these remarkable films probably know where I'm headed. All these films deal with a common theme: individual and/or collective awakening from mass delusion. All these films portray individuals rudely awakened from a collective spell, awakened to the fact that the existence they took to be objective reality, was transparent illusion, thinner than gossamer. In short, these films are modern renditions of Hindu, Buddhist, and Daoist parables of transformation and transcendence, of awakening from "maya," or "illusion."
That such a string of unprecedented films could be penned and produced at this moment in time, is no accident. Movies such as these would not have erupted into the Collective Conscious from the Collective Unconscious, unless a significant segment of our Information Age society had not attained a level of awareness where these films' underlying premise could be greeted without either blank incomprehension or undisguised hostility.
A Brave New Era?
Does the appearance of such films herald a New Era of raised collective consciousness? Is the internet a real-life version of "The Matrix," which will empower the public to see past the Big Lies of our state-managed media's own "Truman Show?"
I do not delude myself about the formidable obstacles looming before us. Social and political evolution is a painfully slow process which cannot be rushed, which of course is why relentlessly hectoring nations like Chile, Myanmar and China about "human rights" are counterproductive exercises in futility. I am however, a perennial optimist. I am bullish on the future, and suspect that just maybe an "upside surprise," as they are known on Wall Street, awaits those of us privileged to live through this once in a lifetime transition to a New Millennium.