This article from Law & Liberty reminded me of the 1989 Revolutions, the largest political and cultural events of our lifetimes. I felt pricked that I had also forgotten and de-emphasised those events in my thinking, I who have two sons born behind the Iron Curtain. Shameful, really. John-Adrian’s first memory is of angry crowds milling outside his apartment building in Oradea, shouting “Iliescu SOS!, Ceausescu JOS!” in 1989 when he was four.
One can make a case that rights for women or for black people were bigger issues over the last century, but those loom larger in North American and perhaps Western European consciousness than the rest of the world. Also, it is difficult to separate out the life-improvements for those groups from the massive improvements in opportunities and standard of living for everyone in those societies. Yes, there are infuriating stories of blacks or women of ability who could not go to college or enter certain professions in 1920, but that was true for a lot of white men as well. In Russia, people were routinely executed, starved, or sent off to the GULAG, and then decades later they just weren’t anymore, because those entire governments had collapsed.
We get caught up in anger at the issues of our day, but some are never going to amount to much. We are fighting over whether people who claim to be a different gender from their birth sex are going to be able to game the system and make us all have to go along with it. Americans are very big on individual rights even at great inconvenience to the group, and Europeans are very big on looking modern and free of tradition (especially when they can compare themselves favorably to Americans), so transgender people in either direction may succeed in having the rest of us be made to shut up and go along. As I said, it’s gaming the system, but it could work. And that will irritate many of us and have bad unforeseen consequences.
But it won’t be execution, or labor camps, or inability to choose our profession or where we live.
No, the rise and fall of communism has been the largest event of our days, but even those of us who should know that get distracted. Popular culture has distracted us away from that main point to hand-wringing about smaller items. We are letting down the succeeding generations who are not hearing about these great events as much as they should. I listen to history podcasts, but seldom hear any historians make reference to those events in Eastern Europe and Asia. The things they talk about are true, and valuable. Yet in talking about the planets, even the largest planets, they neglect to mention the sun. We need to mention the sun.
So I resolve to put in some effort in November to remind us of the rise of communism in 1917 and 1949, the executions and oppressions in mind-boggling numbers, the fall of the USSR thirty years ago and the economic reforms in China a few years after that. That latter is certainly not a fall of communism, but it was perhaps a 25% fall, and it remains to be seen if it will also prove to be unsustainable.
The Romanians have a very good national anthem, “Awake, Romanians.” We can only make ours into a rock version by doing it ironically. There is nothing ironic about this version, and you can feel their enthusiasm to your toes. It looks fun to sing. I still haven’t figured out how to embed a video, but it will be enjoyable for you to click the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqicikxFVys