The closing of the age

It is always dangerous to declare the end of something. History has a way of making us look like dullards. So let me become one…

I think that with the deaths of Michael Jackson and Walter Cronkite, we may have tie a ribbon around this era. We are seeing the last of the people who could command power and attention on their own without the incredible levels of scrutiny they surely would have if they came up today. The prevalence and the diffusion of media now makes it impossible to declare anyone the King of Pop or the Most Trusted Man in America.

Is the Era of the Great Man over? Probably. Maybe that’s ok–technology has a democratizing effect. But it can have–has had–a coarsening effect on our discourse, and our need to out-snark, out-yell and out-pontificate has exploded. Jackson probably couldn’t sell 100 million copies of a single album now–and survive the allegations thrown his way. Cronkite could have declared Iraq a stalemate, but it would have been drowned out by partisans questioning his patriotism. Cronkite declared Vietnam a stalemate, and President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said if I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.

Maybe this, coupled with the economic struggle we’re in, herald a new age. Diffusions of power–economic, media, fame–leave us unmoored, adrift in a sea we have trouble making sense of. So, how to raise our sails in a difficult ocean? Here’s a question to answer a question…

What are your universal values? Some fashion has no staying power. Staying power, anchors are what these times call for.

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