I just spent the better part of an hour, viewing old WW II propaganda posters and reading about the history of their use on the home front. I was surprised by the depth of emotion the images evoked in me — to be honest, many of them put me on the verge of tears by the time I was done. The feeling of unity the images pressed on me, the idea of our country‘s entire population drawn together to complete a goal, overwhelms me.

An aspect of the posters I had not anticipated was the number of them that called for the donation of books, as a source of amusement for the soldiers abroad. It caught me off guard: it is a part of the history of the war that we do not often hear about in the history books. Indeed, for the most part, the subject of a soldier’s methods of occupying their minds never entered my thoughts.

The calls for donations of books, the talk of victory gardens and war bonds, made me stop for a spell and think on the difference that time brings about in society. There is a gap, now, sociologically speaking, and it is growing. The subject of the World wars brings it into sharp relief. On whole, the willingness of our people to accept the necessity of sacrifice, and their ability to display and utilize patience and restraint, has faded. The American society of today is a poster child for the ideas of instant gratification. We are so focused on giving into our fleeting consumer hungers that we have forgotten the concept of savings. After all, why put-up even a token struggle to save when there is the option of having what we desire without delay? That is the magic of a credit card.

This childish need — no, demand — to have needs met instantaneously concerns ms. To be blunt, it makes me question the safety of my future, given that virtually everyone around me is only looking into the short term, at the immediate. When the yardstick used for measuring the success of the products available to me for purchase is quantity as opposed to quality (as it must be, to keep up with the unstaunchable hunger of the average consumer’s hunger, need, desire for an instant world) I find that I have cause for worry. After all, if nobody is looking into the long term for products, nobody will build for it; a quality product has a higher production cost than a piece of disposable garbage, and a society that is used to goods that have a lifespan that is measured in years rather than decades won’t know the difference — and seldom looks further than the price tag.

Would the present population of America be willing — or, for that matter, psychologically capable — of carrying out the same level of heroic sacrifice that the members of the Greatest Generation shouldered? Viewing the national fiasco that we call a debate on climate change, I have my doubts. The opportunity we have at our fingertips to advance the technological prowess of our nation, while simultaneously showing the world an image of a nation standing as a united front against what could be a nearly unimaginable global catastrophy, is a golden one regardless of the validity of the science behind the theories. Despite this, our nation’s leaders have instead embraced partisan bickering over such pressing issues as whether or not our President was really born in Hawaii.

If this is truly the level our proud country has fallen to, color me ashamed and disappointed. This land of liberty deserves far better.

To avoid being accused of what I playfully call, “Wendell Berry Syndrome,” or a habit of social criticism that lacks any suggestions for improvement or change, allow me to close with a piece of advice: compromise, but do not compromise your ideals. Patience, and a mind willing to take up the burden of sacrifice so that those who follow may lead a better life, are traits that are in short supply in today’s world. Practice them.

This document was adapted from a diary entry written on March 9th, 2010, and was written on an Olivetti Underwood Studio 45 typewriter for preservation purposes before being digitized with optical character recognition software.

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Tags: America, Berry, Wendell, compromise, consumerism, culture, disposable, gratification, instant, patience, More…politicians, politics, sacrifice, sociology, typecast, typewriter


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Comment by Samuel Chapman on March 21, 2010 at 3:43pm
Excellent post!

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