Life, at the speed of….No, even faster.
The late, great, Marshall McLuhan wrote, “We look at the present through a rear view mirror.” I’m not sure which of his books that is from, but the photograph illustrating the saying is etched in my mind. At the time, I didn’t understand what it meant. The callowness of youth demanded that the present is merely a jumping off spot for the future. Even as a history major, I didn’t see how the present was caused by looking back. I could well understand that the present was built on the past, but created by our view of the past? Nope, did not compute. This was another popular phrase in those days. McLuhan died in 1980, well before the Internet became a driving force in our lives. He would have loved it. And maybe he does. After all, he has a Twitter account @marshallmcluhan.
The events of this month brought McLuhan’s words home. November has been a month of terror. On October 31st, a Russian jet crashed in Egypt. Stories swirled through the media about the cause of the crash, each more dire than the rest. The one certainty? The plane did not fall from the sky for any of the usual tragic, but innocuous, reasons. As events developed, the cause was determined to be a bomb. A simple bomb, just as in the Lockerbie Pan Am crash. At 31,000 feet, it doesn’t take anything high tech or too complex to bring down a plane. ISIS claimed “credit” for the attack.
We’d just caught our breaths when on the 13th of November coordinated attacks killed 130 people in Paris. The world became Parisian as word of the carnage spread through the news and Internet sites. ISIS again claimed “credit” for the attack. The beautiful city of Brussels is braced for its own attack from the same source. Schools and public transportation have closed for the duration. Police and military patrol the streets in combat gear. Waiting and watching. Does it matter if the attack ever comes? It seems that in this instance terror has won without firing a shot.
Paris was still fresh on our minds when word came in on November 20th from Mali. Another terroristattack, this one against a luxury hotel. In this instance, the terrorists stormed the hotel and took 170 guests and staff hostage, killing 19. Al Qaeda took “credit” for this attack and current word has it that there is a deadly rift between Al Qaeda and ISIS that seems to be developing into a “my terror” is better than “your terror” rivalry.
The quantity of horrific news cascading through the media made me long for a slower, simpler time. Bad things have always happened. Wars have always been hell, and yes, terror has always been with us. Somehow, though, it seemed different when it was presented to us by one of the three news networks in smaller, more easily digestible, bits. The race to get bigger, flashier, sexier coverage didn’t exist in the days of Walter Cronkite. Well, maybe it did in the newsroom, but it was more genteel when presented to the public.
In an attempt to escape the deluge of terror, my husband and I put on an old standby movie, 2000’s The Dish. The storyline follows events in Parkes, Australia during the 1969 moon landing. Those magnificent photos of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon came to us courtesy of Parkes, Australia. The movie is billed as a comedy of manners. I don’t understand why. It has some funny parts, but the underlying story is serious. At least it was to the US at the time, and to me, it happened on my birthday. Somewhere around the time of the scramble to connect to the signal from the LEM it hit. The broadcast was live around the world. It was real time, and it was universal. I could only remember one other event that took place in real time. The funeral of John F. Kennedy. The man who set us on a course for the moon before the end of the 1960s decade.
Looking at the present through the filter of those two events, I realized that the seeds, maybe not of the Internet, but of some sort of universal communication system were inevitable. The world was hooked. We wanted to see events as they happened, and inconvenient as it may be timewise, we learned it was possible.
There was another rear view mirror moment during the movie. Watching the news film of Kennedy