Our Historical Moment

I spent five years studying the American Revolution. I read the founders’ letters and diaries and commonplace books. In a strange way–because I learned their secrets–I got to know them better than they knew each other. As it turns out, they were men and women just like we are. They had flaws and warts. They made some cataclysmic mistakes. But, as a group, they rose to meet their historical moment.

If you and I were prone to political philosophizing, we might come up with some cool ideas about how to start and run a country. But we are not living in a historical moment that proffers a realistic opportunity to bring forth a new nation. History will not judge us for our failure to mimic the founding moment any more than history will judge the founders for their ignorance of HTML. Each generation of human history is presented with its own cultural reactor filled with technology, resources, and ideas. Depending upon a generation’s action or inaction, that reactor can produce light, power, or destruction.

Had the now-fading “greatest generation” of Americans dithered and failed to respond to the attack on Pearl Harbor, where would the world be today? Posterity has judged them heroes, because they answered their singular call from history.

Had Kennedy dismissed the Apollo program as a fool’s errand, what opportunities would we have missed? What discoveries would remain shrouded?

To us: what are the key ingredients in our 21st-century reactor? What will we do with them, and how will we respond when our generation-defining question is asked?

A final angle: I was born in 1975. If I live to be 75 years old, I will die in 2050. Between those two dates on my gravestone, what will have changed? In what areas will the world be fundamentally different in the span of my lifetime? How will our understanding and practice of, say, health, energy, architecture, media, or education be transformed in a few decades? We might observe that globalism and network technology are etching deep grooves across the cultural and physical landscape of our time. But what else? And what for?

History may not judge you or me, but it will judge us.

About Ben Ponder, Editor-at-Large

Ben Ponder, PhD, is Editor-at-Large at Media Rostra. Ben has received decorative pieces of paper conferring upon him an unnamed set of “rights and privileges accorded thereto” from the University of Arkansas, Regent College, and Northwestern University (where he was a Presidential Fellow). He studied (in alphabetical order) architecture, classics, communication, history, political science, rhetoric, and theology. He is the author of American Independence: From Common Sense to the Declaration (“Sizzling.” – TMZ) and the co-editor of Making the Case: Advocacy and Judgment in Public Argument (“Six-pack abs-olutely great!” – US Weekly). Ben is currently an executive in the educational software industry. He and his organic wife, Amy, live with their four free-range kids in a farmhouse Ben designed and built. His personal site on the Interweb is benponder.com, and he can be reached on Twitter @ponderben.