I never quite understood the challenges my father faced as a survivor until I read Maus, the story of Vladek Spiegelman’s story about survival in Hitler’s Europe. At the end I was left with two haunting questions, “when do we know it is time to act?” and the related question, “what do the actions of today have to do with the world of tomorrow?”
William Gibson had said that the future is here but that it is not evenly distributed. It does not require an enormous imagination to realize that we have already seen our future: rust belt regions; thousands of shuttered factories; abandoned homes. For those on the east coast, “FutureWorld” is in Camden, New Jersey. (It’s also in Newark.) I’m sure there are many other cities and towns that have been hollowed out, resources sucked dry, the wealth extracted, and the people left there to rot.
We get other glimpses of the future, such as the shootings in a movie theater or in a temple. I believe we will be seeing more of these shootings. You don’t need a Ph.D. to figure it out. An economy in steep decline, white men who believe their “whiteness” gives them some privileges, an economy that treats them like they are worthless (perhaps white men need to read Ellison’s “Invisible Man”) and easy access to guns.
I think my generation, the baby boomers, are still in shock, still can’t believe that their whole world has crumbled before their eyes, that the things they worked for for decades — home values; pensions; savings — have evaporated. We fool ourselves if we think that, through some miracle, we will manage to thrive.
So when is it time to act, how will today’s actions shape tomorrow, and what actions should we take? Those are the questions that should be haunting everyone day and night.