Monday, September 26, 2011
Full Circle Deja Vu
Mr. Derderian, my Sophomore high school history teacher used to scare the crap out of us with his stories about the Great Depression. He was an old guy then and I'd be surprised if he were still alive today. He liked to tell us about the causes of the depression and the desperation that people lived with. He would describe the condition of the unemployed with their inability to find work and the scarceness of food. Families had to group together for communal survival, creating a situation that instead of spawning creative competition, spurned fatalistic outlooks and defeated spirits. But I think more than anything, Mr. Derderian liked to illustrate to those of us listening, how history repeats its self and how society is too disjointed to adapt to crises it has already experienced in the past.
This was during the late nineteen-eighties, and though Reagan had eviscerated many social programs that we didn't miss at the time, I was well insulated from money shortages. I had a job at the Taco Bell and was also working summers with my uncle in the texture business. My parents had bought their first home which was a new tract house in Rosemont, California. Everything seemed to be on the up and up, and the idea of anyone going broke around us, much less an entire nation, was a far fetched idea. Mr Derderian's depressing scenario seemed like a far away, ambiguous nightmare. It touched some of us for sure; the idea that it would all collapse and people would literally starve and die on the street. I remember my friend Chris, a stoned rocker dude who I would give an occasional ride home to, expressed his uneasiness one day from the back seat of my Dart.
"Mr. Derderian's scaring us, telling us there's gonna be a depression and shit," he had said. He was right to be worried. Our history teacher was very clear and to the point. He always had this gleam in his smile, as if he knew it was going to happen and he was somehow age-exempt from having to experience it. He had this grin and look in his eye like, "I won't be there, but you all will be."
I don't know if Mr. Derderian is around today to see how close to right he was, but I hope he is. And though we haven't had an official depression, all the broken systems are still in place and we're just one whacked out Republican president away from total ruin. As a younger man I always would scoff at my old-man friends with their conspiracy theories, who always went on and on about how the world was fucked, and my generation was fucked, and how the end is extremely nigh. Now I'm that guy, with the graying hair and depressing stories for the kiddies. I spent years of my life ignoring and denying the elephants in the living room, but now I have learned to follow the proverb-- 'Be the change you want to see'. The only way to stop history from repeating its self is to call it out ahead of time when we see it brewing. It is also imperative to know and understand the past, using primary sources.