I was listening to a TV discussion this afternoon and one of the subjects talked about was how we are having to deal with things that most of us thought were long gone into the pages of history. As a history major in college I was required to take a class in historiography, which includes theories of why things change. One idea that most are familiar with is that history repeats itself.
There are other theories but what we’re seeing unfold today has elements that were common in the decades between the two world wars. Throughout much of the world there was a huge increase in militarists and nationalists groups. In Japan the military came to power and pushed for military solutions to Japan’s problems. In Italy and Germany people turned to dictatorial leadership and its promise of resolving the effects of the First World War and the Great Depression.
I grew up and became educated after these things had occurred. In my time most of us came to believe we’d seen the last of fascism, Nazis, genocide, and religious and ethnic wars. My generation grew up in the post war prosperity of the 1950s, got an education, a decent job, and went on to out do our parents. I suppose we thought it would always be that way, if not get even better.
Well, it wasn’t to be. Changes in business practices and rapidly changing technology turned against the middle-class prosperity I had witnessed. Millions of jobs went where labor was cheaper, became obsolete, or are now performed by robots. The good “people” jobs remaining in America now go to those who have a high degree of technical skill. What’s left are low paid, low skilled, and too few.
So here we are, back to those days when jobs are few, education expensive, young adults are still living at home, and whole parts of America is in ruins. The same feelings of despair that turned Germans to fascism in the 1930s have given rise to right-wing extremists in 2016’s America. Both Hitler and Trump are the products of people feeling desperate.
Next time you’re wondering what causes our story to change, add desperation and despair to the list. But keep in mind that history repeats itself so the good times may someday return. I just hope we don’t have to endure what the world witnessed that last time so many became desperate.
FOOTNOTE: Since I wrote this piece both Putin and Trump have began talking about increasing each nation’s nuclear arsenal. From out of nowhere the world is suddenly knocking on the door of another nuclear arms race and the weapons makers are seeing their stock values hit the roof. It’s good to be a war monger!
In an attempt to end on a happier note reading this article I’m reminded of the bit they did on Hee Haw about, Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me!