During 2016, the year of politics, the main concern of American citizens often was laced with words like freedom, fairness, loyalty, ethic, social justice, virtue, ethos, and other words that focus on how Americans treat one another and the spirit that binds them or separates them as fellow US citizens. It seems, as a closely experienced moment in history, not to have been orderly. The American psyche behaves as though it were in a clothes washer. As a people, we are tossed about by economic unfairness; we are tossed about by clashes in philosophy of government; we are tossed about by a blatant intrusion of technology without time for adaptation and understanding; we are threatened by the loss of our planet.
But in a quick glance, we see only the tip of the iceberg. When we studied history in school, we were able to identify different periods of history tied to wars or inventions or shifts in culture. For example, The Enlightenment, or The Protestant Reformation, or The Elizabethan era, or The Boer Wars, or The Nuclear age. What is our era? What can we call the years from the end of the Viet Nam war (April 30, 1975) to 2016? Perhaps there are subdivisions: The Reagan Government; The Millennial Years; Beginning of the Electronic Age; The Middle East Wars; The Emerging age of Corporatism. Mariner suggests these time periods are too short. Are there more influential years that we may not think of at the moment?
Maybe the sixth Great Extinction suggested by Elizabeth Kolbert; maybe the newly named Anthropocene Epoch (Human use of fossil fuel since 1850 literally has changed the chemistry of the planet); maybe “The Age of Sinking Megacities.” Mariner does not suggest these titles to be cynical. They are too real and quite too serious to be castigations. It’s just so hard to focus. So many wonderful things about modernity are pushed aside because we have the froth of the clothes washer in our eyes.