Thursday, April 02, 2009

Parallel Lines

I think I've told the anecdote in the past here where I was sitting on the subway, and time reversed itself.
If I haven't, forgive me, because the older I get, the more I think I'm right that we're moving backwards in time.
It was early in the Bush the Elder administration. I was sat on a subway train pulling into Times Square station on my way to work. A Wednesday, as I recall.
The train stopped suddenly, went into reverse (which trains never do), stopped again, and inched forward. I made a mental note at the time to check if time had stopped and reversed itself.
I think it has.
Mark Twain famously observed that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. It cycles, with each cycle events occur that reflect early events, if not directly, then certainly in shape and form.
This decade, the Oughts, seems to be mirroring another recent decade: the 60s. Only not so much. And in some ways, even more.
You can mark the 60s, I think, by three events: The election and death of our youngest (and first and only Catholic) President, a hated President who followed him in office and ran and escalated a war that no one wanted and was completely unnecessary, an economic boom that had lasted nearly 50 years, and an event that galvanized the world and brought us closer, the Apollo moon missions.
Here, we see an almost didactic opposite decade. It ends with the election of change, and began with a tradgedy not unlike the assassination of JFK in the events of September 11. In between, we've had a despised President who led us into an unwinnable and costly war.
And the event that has galvanized the world is an economic depression. The questions remaining to be resolved are how long and how will it affect the world?
Will this economic meltdown bring America and the world closer together as a family of man or will it drive deep divisions into us all, and polarize the world further?
Signs for both outcomes are around us. History is not kind in this regard: economic crises of this magnitude usually require a war to make them end. The Great Depression did not end until World War II, although the seeds of renewal were planted in the New Deal policies of the Thirties. They might have sprung up anyway, more slowly and perhaps more safely.
The flip side is the heartening news that at least some people have not lost the vision of a world culture. We know the future can only be embraced by humanity when we decide to lay down our arms, at least the ones that can wipe out the entire planet, and work together. A single currency would begin that transition. It would help prevent the large seismic shifts in economic power that history has shown us can be even more antagonistic than even an economic meltdown.
Indeed, those imbalances can cause economic meltdowns.
History cycles, and sometimes it cycles in reverse. Perhaps this time it's possible that a war created the global economic meltdown and that a currency "exchange" (trading into this Chinese scheme) would prevent a worse war.