Sometimes we make a difference!
Okay, I admit that it can happen even to me. Every now and then, I feel drawn by the sick-sweet allure of cynicism. Look around. I mean is anybody listening to the good ideas? Ain't it tempting to think that it's all just useless? That you might as well turn inward -- take up carpentry and let the world go to hell on its own?
Isn't the whole modernist-democratic experiment getting pounded down, the same way it happened in Periclean Athens, by the combined forces of mysticism, egotism, oligarchy and war? History shows what a narrow renaissance we've been lucky to live through. The Pragmatic Enlightenment always relied upon a brash and rather unnatural sense of confidence in the future. And now that its enemies have figured out how to undermine that confidence, that belief in negotiation and problem-solving, is there really much chance of preventing a return of the old ways that dominated every other culture? Especially the pattern that is preached in popular fantasy tales -- rule by coalitions of aristocrats and clerics.
Certainly, my own efforts, yammering and tossing bricks in ALL directions (contrarianism) would seem likely to achieve just one long term effect. I am giving our future masters (whether they arise from either left or right) plenty of quotables to snatch out of internet archives and cite (out-of-context) during my show trial! Shortly before they resume the traditional methodology practiced by nearly all other human societies, dealing with gadflies by the simple expediency of immolation
Only then, just when it all seems futile, there comes a hint that I really am part of something bigger. Moreover, maybe I'm even helping in some small way.
For example, now comes word from Belarus, an ex-Soviet republic that has spiraled into pure dictatorship, that the democracy and human rights movement over there is making use of a symbol, an archetype, that may be familiar to some of you.
"Kobets told me that Belarus's democratic activists took their inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources: a Kevin Costner film. "The Postman," adapted from a novel by David Brin in 1997 and critically panned, depicts an apocalyptic America where the remnants of civilization live in terror of a brutal army headed by a sadistic general. Costner's character, a drifter, delivers a bag of old mail information and becomes a symbol of hope for those hoping to restore their American democracy."
(For the whole article, see The New York Times --with thanks to Kathryn Myronuk)
Well now, that's nice. Though, in fact, the message about turning away from neo-feudalism and discovering true patriotism - about an America that restores itself and the world through communications - was originally intended to be absorbed by... well... Americans. (The reason I have long been "surprisingly forgiving" toward Costner is quite simple. Somehow, amid the uneven muddle of that film this message is the one part of the story that he absolutely nailed.)
Ah well, one takes what one can get. Go Belarussians! Struggle and prevail.