I saw the decade end
Thinking the world could change
In the blink of an eye
As most are already aware, I am a cynical person. Cynical to the point of pessimism. I just can't look at the way my species has mis-managed its opportunity, and even today, with so much knowledge available, is still unwilling to take even the most obvious steps to protect itself and its habitat. How 'intelligent' is a species, really, when it can't look just ten or twenty years into the future and make concrete plans to preserve even the most basic necessities as food and clean water?
What makes it worse is that we were all witness to a moment of profound hope, of the most sweeping change in longstanding policy madness, a moment when the world changed in the space of one hundred days. And yet in hindsight of mere decades we can see how the hope for something as simple as peaceful coexistence never had a chance of taking root. That even when we surprised ourselves by our own clear vision of humans as community, as a species inhabiting a planet, not some collection of tribal entities, we turn away from that vision, almost as if the possibility of the possibility frightens us.
The first East Germans crossed the border from Hungary to Austria in August of 1989. On November 9th, the checkpoints from East Berlin were opened. Do you remember? Did you sit, transfixed by the images on the television news, watching in head-shaking disbelief as everything we understood about our world and how it was arranged, everything we had lived for our entire lives, changed into something we never even dreamed was possible? And all without guns, without war, without fighting and killing. Everything changed because there was something utterly, fundamentally wrong with the system as it stood, and finally that system could no longer sustain itself based on the self-evident madness of its basic premise.
Do you remember the faces? Not just the faces of the kids dancing together, East and West, on top of that wall that November night at the end of the decade, but the faces on your friends and co-workers that day? The thought that, maybe, just maybe, there WAS a different path for humans to walk.
Of course, there wasn't. Our species isn't capable, apparently, of that kind of self-salvation. Our own greed and fear and hatred and ideology will prevent it. We will destroy ourselves, paradoxically because it is a path that feels safer than the alternative. It is a path that indulges our worst beliefs, both in ourselves and in those we view as 'others'.
So yeah, I'm cynical, to the point of pessimistic. But the next time you look at some mundane political event and tell me that it means I should feel hopeful, think back to that one brilliant moment in our entire lifetimes when the world shifted on its axis, that moment when we truly had reason to feel hopeful, and watch how we squandered it all in our mad rush back to the madness that humans seem to crave.