The last sun has set on 2008, and that’s a picture of it shot at distance through a gap in the trees. Many people will be looking back — but history is for the historians, and what really survives as memories of 2008 deep into the future might surprise you since it will be future generations and not ours who decide what’s important and what’s not. They will do it against the backdrop of a different world, one that’s different culturally, ideologically, technologically, and politically.
We can’t determine what that backdrop will be and we can’t direct it either — the best we can hope is for some slight influence. You don’t believe me? Without googling, name the most popular actress and actor of 1928, name the three most popular tunes, name the discoveries made by science that year, name the speaker of the house. Can’t do it? If you look in history books you can find that the Thames flooded, there were great earthquakes in the Ukraine, as well as several other historic natural events that also caught us by surprise, but you aren’t going to find tons of cultural references, and what was burningly important in the news of 1928 is so much dusty newsprint today.
One of the things that did survive from 1928 is commercial television, and the first licensed production television station launched in Albany as WXRB but was popularly known as WGY tv. It has become today’s CBS station, WRGB Channel 6, where Rachel Raye got her start. But will anyone be watching Rachel Raye in 80 years? Probably not, but there’s good chance that Mickey Mouse will still be remembered in some form and Walt Disney created the first short with Mickey Mouse in 1928.
What is endearing survives, what is mundane or ugly does not.
So as the pundits look back with love and malice at 2008 please put it in perspective. What survives the years is what we do and create, things of lasting value, truth, and beauty. The accomplishments we remember are the ones of technology, the outcomes of wars, nature’s big surprises, and the lasting achievements of philosophy, art, and science. The ugly and the mundane gets left behind – so here’s the challenge, what will you do, what will you create that will last down generations? As you look back at 2008, what will survive? I’m betting Harry Potter will still be read in 80 years, but few will read much else from the start of this century; and what will those who do read our history think of us?