Friday, July 8, 2022

The History of the World, Volume Three

A multi-column series originally published in 2016

Image by Ingi Finnsson from Pixabay 

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device 

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." -H.G. Wells

Dear Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

I'm spending the summer in a cabin on a beautiful lake somewhere in the Swiss Alps, working on my memoirs, and trying to decide if this column will resume post-Labor Day. The market has found me wanting; I'm buying most of my own coffee just now. So be it, I remain an unrepentant supporter of capitalism. 

My big brother Eddie is currently my only financial patron so I'm starting to feel like Van Gogh... without the world-class talent, but with both ears. I'm also considering publishing only when the spirit moves me. Cranking out columns week after week, while enjoyable, is hard work — well, intellectually speaking — at least for me. 

{It sure ain't roofing or the like you whiney b...}

In the meantime, I'll be republishing mostly gently (but occasionally heavily) edited columns with updated statistics and fun facts in [brackets].

In our last episode, we covered the history of the world from the Bigus Bangus to the year 1776. In 1776 the world caught a major break.

In some of Great Britain's North American colonies, a bunch of folks got together and invented the United States of America. In Scotland, Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, invented modern economics, and taught the world how free markets would eventually lead to the need for a weight loss industry. These two events occurred while the industrial revolution was picking up steam. A trifecta!  

Insert sound of screeching tires in a panic stop here

At this point in our story, I must toss in a few paragraphs from the Reality Checks, Caveats & Premises Department (RCC&P) before proceeding. First, the three events mentioned in the previous paragraph didn’t happen by magic. The Greeks dabbled in democracy, the Romans ran a republic (at least for a while), and the Brits managed to make a Magna Carta.

Mr. Smith wasn’t the first person to consider how economies worked and we had obviously been producing and selling stuff to each other for thousands of years before the industrial revolution came along and we got really, really good at it. But the trifecta ushered in the modern world and made it possible for so many of us to become the spoiled, whiny, overfed ingrates of the developed world and inspire the lean and downtrodden developing world to aspire to someday have their own obesity epidemics.   

Second, in my semi-humble opinion, the American experiment can be defined by quoting the most important passage of the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

If you accept that statement as a fundamental given (whether or not you believe in a creator), perhaps the most fundamental of givens… Well, If you don’t accept that statement, I fear it’s time for us to go our separate ways, you can have the dog but I’m keeping most of the records CDs DVDs records.

And third, I freely acknowledge that the next sentence in the declaration could have been:

“Assuming, of course, that you are caucasian and male.” That was undeniably the way America worked at the time and it was an undeniable flaw. However, it was the local version of how much of the world worked then, a version of reality that lives on in not a few places. Sexism and racism are unfortunately not rare phenomena. However, I maintain that some dramatic progress has been made in the last 250 years or so, particularly when compared to however many gajillions of years it was considered normal for a given Fred or Barney to club a cutie down at the waterhole to clean the cave and keep an eye on Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm while he and boys were partying at the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos lodge.

When my mum and dad got together, roughly 75 years ago (chronologically speaking a drop in the bucket), they believed that a man’s job was to bring home the bacon and a woman’s job was to be a domestic engineer. Period. In light of the way many folks look at things today, including me, they were wrong. I’m inclined to not only forgive them, but to also say thanks. They weren’t evil, and incidentally, they were part of the generation that survived the Great Depression and won World War Two. While they were busy saving the world they didn’t know that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would be an era of unprecedented prosperity for the USA, the one that lasted from just after WW2 to the late 1970s. Things started getting weird after that, which I’ll get into later.

Finally, let us acknowledge the elephant skulking in the corner of the room. Homo sapiens will be Homo sapiens. While I’m profoundly grateful for the dumb luck of being a product of, and living in, a country that’s a product of Western civilization, I’m slightly smarter than I look.

My gratitude is based on two things. Although I think Western Civilization in general, and the USA in particular, is the best we’ve done so far, both are as flawed and imperfect as the H. sapiens that somehow came up with them. Therefore a - We’re number one! We’re number one! - overheated sports fan attitude can be as tacky as wearing socks with sandals. Let us be quietly smug. The coolest kid doesn’t have to tell people he’s cool, that’s part of his, um, coolness. Also, an economic implosion here, a pandemic there, or an asteroid the size of a bus, "Last stop, Earth!" and the Dark Ages Digest could experience a sudden dramatic increase in circulation.

To be continued...

{Wait just a minute, Sparky! You're gonna stop there? Posit that 1776 marked some sort of global game-changer, insert a handful of qualifications from the RCC&P department, and then close?}

Well, Dana, I've already exceeded my word allocation. Think of it as a cliffhanger. Cliffhangers are cool, right?

{No, they're not, they're annoying. What do you think...}

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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