16 January 2008

It is now sixteen or seventeen years...

Late on the night of my 18th birthday, as I sat at the bar of the Summit Inn in Howth enjoying my first legal pint, the television screen in the corner went an eerie shade of green and a series of loud explosions crackled over the speakers. The Gulf War had begun with the launch of Operation Desert Storm. We sat transfixed watching CNN into the early hours of the morning, well after closing time, but no-one made any motion to leave, or ask us to leave. The audible fear in the voices of the reporters as they crouched under tables in their hotel and the deafening explosions from cruise missile attacks and bombing of the city around them signaled the start of the first media war at the dawn of the digital age. As I sat transfixed the thoughts going through my head were of Vietnam, in which my estranged father had fought also aged 18; by the time I arrived home to bed exhausted but with a startling clarity of mind, I had convinced myself that a draft was imminent, and my nascent adulthood was over before it had even begun.

The simultaneous arrival of my adult life with the start of the modern era of smart bombs, preemptive strikes, imbedded journalism, and unashamed neoliberal jingoism, is something that gives me pause on every subsequent birthday. While I know that every generation believes that they were born into a golden age that has long since past, the fact that in absolute terms poverty has increased on a global level since 1991, life expectancy in the majority world has decreased, and the western media self censors to such a degree that press freedom seems to be at an all time low, it is difficult to argue that things are better now than seventeen years ago.

As I sit in the Polish office of an internet multinational wirelessly blogging on my MacBook, before taking a cappuccino break and playing tennis on one of the office Wiis, tired from simultaneously watching the Irish episode of 'My Super Sweet 16th" in my hotel room via Slingbox and video Skyping with the Very Understanding Girlfriend last night, I realize that we are all going to hell.

"But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness"

Edmund Burke, 'Reflections on the Revolution in France', 1793


At 5:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We made the grandfather watch the Irish episode of My Super Sweet 16 to show him what Ireland was really like now a days.
His reaction was the same mix of revulsion and guilty pleasure that he normally experiences from watching Fox News which led me to think that those feelings are not the only similarity between Modern Ireland and the American United States.


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