A moment’s thought regarding the events of any decade, in retrospect, would turn up a plethora of particulars that would never have been guessed at in prospect. The final decades of the second millennium have certainly been no exception; much to the contrary. The breaking up of the Soviet Union, the toppling of the Berlin Wall, and the radical economic shifts abroad – as well as the domestic phenomena of the pendular shift from the Reagan/Bush administration to Clinton/Gore, the sweeping compromise of sensitive defense data, and the roller-coaster of big court battles were beyond anyone’s horizon of definitive projections.
Yet it runs deeper. Not only are the details off the screen, often the entire corporate consciousness in which they occur is. Worldview changes can be bewilderingly marked. The current fascination with generational distinctives is testimony to such. A Graying Years adult would hardly think of questioning governing authority, a Baby Boomer wouldn’t think twice about it, and a Generation Xer might question if there is an authority. The difference between the Happy Days ’50’s and the tumult of the ’60’s requires no elucidation. Perhaps not as striking, but every bit as real, have been the paradigmatic shifts in the thought systems driving these visibilities. Someone pummeled by the Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl Days, but being assisted by a federal work program, may learn to trust the government but distrust financial institutions. Conversely, someone enjoying the unprecedented prosperity of post-war industrialism but winding up in Vietnam, the Watts Riots, and with the assassinations, may learn to trust financial institutions but distrust the government. Likewise, the views of Marx in the sphere of economics and of Darwin in biology in part gave the late nineteenth century a euphoric sense of optimism. Things could only get better and better. So much was this the case that a liberal theology journal debuted to celebrate how the 1900’s would be the greatest years yet. It was called The Christian Century. But two world wars and other jolting turns brought the lofty ideals of utopia not only down to earth, but nearly buried them. Ideas brought about realities, and realities modified ideas. What either will be in the early decades of the third millennium we can conjecture, but uncertainty looms as large as it ever has.