Monday, June 23, 2008

We didn't start the fire

This is the conclusion of an essay I once did about the song "We didn't start the Fire" by Billy Joel which I dusted off today in preparation for the general culture class I'm going to give.

So we made it up to here, today and in the Now. The new millennium slowly peaks its nose through our very own timelines and new events unravel as the world turns. Today humans are sending text messages through cell phones, while space vehicles ride on Mars looking for life. Hijacked planes crumble our buildings but our presidents never lose hope and continue to speak to us about freedom. Men hold hands together in peace yet laws deny their right to hold them in marriage. The world buys magazines with tsunami covers on them but will also purchase the one that shows us how we too can achieve J-Lo’s derriere.

All of the events that Joel talked about in his song were directly or indirectly connected to one another and they all happened because one man invented a wheel so he wouldn’t have to do all that work. Out of wars came movies like South Pacific and out of movies came audiences eager to be like a particular Hollywood actor. Out of acting came a President who defined economics which helped America enjoy the prosperity it achieved in recent years. A man was placed on the Moon because another had a vision on a clear night and a man was shot because another man could not understand his call for freedom. In the future, those flags we pledged allegiance to will swift their winds to new frontiers and new political, social and economic measures will dominate our lives as our children laugh at us for being so old fashioned while our grandchildren will see us as useful artifacts that have seen better days.

That is the message of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire song: continuity. We are the creators of our own destiny yet when it actually happens all we can do is buy a box of popcorn and stare into the world’s biggest blockbuster: Reality (coming soon to a theatre near you every day!) Johnny Carson may have died yesterday and a new President will be born tomorrow and no one has the ability to change these facts. We cannot change them and never will no matter how we or others try to erase them from our history books. The sparks that lit the fire in the first place were never ours to begin with.

What we can do, luckily, is look back on our history and learn from it but it has not been easy for us to learn since Eve tricked Adam or since man tipped off Darwin – take your pick. “Most of the miseries of the world were caused by wars and when the wars were over no one ever knew what they were about”, said Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. Alas, we still continue to send men to Iraq in hopes of finding freedom. Our eyes have feasted on the fashions and trends that spurt out daily through window panes and we throw them away as quickly as we acquired them. But we know that someday we’ll go seeking under our beds for those purple clogs.

We kill people for their opinions and values considering them heretics, yet years later we honor them; and we build mausoleums and statues for people we are thankful for, yet we tear them down when we forget their significance. Therefore Man’s challenge is to look at the past and realize where the world has taken us. It's the taming of the bonfires that devastate our forests and burn our villages that we should fear. Not the course where History has burnt out her heritage. That is ours to learn, understand and ultimately conquer.

What is History but a fable agreed upon?
- Bonaparte.-

2 comments:

Patrizia said...

Loved it Toto! Though I resent the fact that supposedly Eve tricked Adam...wasn't it the snake that tricked them both???

Toto said...

Yeah but Eve ruffled up the Snake's feathers! Si no hubiese sido por curiosa y metiche, believe me que yo no sería calvo!!

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