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Bruce West, Published February 11 2012

Inanities capture culture

As I look back on my more than six decades on this planet, I often wonder what happened to us, those with whom I have traveled through this specific time and unique space? I remember the 1960s and ’70s; there was turmoil and conflict, yet many were politically active, environmentally aware and pushing for positive change. Much was accomplished. Civil rights and environmental issues were addressed, and new laws emerged, making our nation better, healthier and more fair.

Overnight, it seemed, political and commercial interests co-opted and captured this freshly created common culture, the music changed and other less benign forces merged with and came to dominate the message and messenger. Whether it was from exposure to the beguiling light of one too many disco balls or the “greed is good” message from the Reagan era, society’s direction and mood was distinctly altered.

In 1977, I went shopping for a new vehicle. At the time, with the country’s focus on energy conservation, the diesel Volkswagen Rabbit, with its 50 miles per gallon, was much sought after. Determined to get one for myself, I ventured out to the local VW dealer, only to find that because of demand none were available. Not many years later the nation’s citizenry, after being bombarded with the message to consume and recreate, were tooling around in behemoth SUVs and clambering for ever expanding McMansions.

What happened to the emerging awareness that actions have consequences? For a short time, there was a glow, an underlying perception that with forthright long-range planning and cooperative action, it was possible to pass on to future generations a healthy, livable world. There was hope and expectation in the prospect of a sustainable relationship with the earth, all other life and its processes. Where did this feeling, this hopefulness go?

Now, with inane chants of “drill baby drill” echoing in our national consciousness, we are beginning to hear other voices. A strong undercurrent of unease is awakening those who are tired of being used, ignored and lied to. Look around, what we see is not pretty. To protect corporate interests and provide more profit to those already awash in material wealth, workers are locked out, the environment is compromised and unjust wars are waged in our name.

Will we continue to sleepwalk through life remaining unaware that the dream we have been sold is unraveling? The future holds the prospect of major societal change with the direction of change not clear. We, the human beings of this planet, will decide one way or another. With our collective future at risk, it makes you wonder what our legacy will be and what our children’s grandchildren will think of us.