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Truly Amazing Photographs By Peter West
There are some photographs take in in the early part of the 20th century, when the West still believed in itself, and had a more homogeneous population, that have to be seen to be believed.
The painters on the Brooklyn Bridge show a number of men hanging onto the steel wires suspended perhaps 40 metres above the ground. That does not seem much until you see the men standing on wires. It is enough to make one dizzy, and fall, even sitting down! The political, or metapolitical point is that this sort of world not longer exists, at least in the West:
“America went to the moon in 1969 with supposedly primitive computers and backward engineering. Does anyone believe we could launch a similar moonshot today? No American has set foot on the moon in the last 47 years, and it may not happen in the next 50 years. Hollywood once gave us blockbuster epics, brilliant Westerns, great film noirs, and classic comedies. Now it endlessly turns out comic-book superhero films or pathetic remakes of prior classics. Our writers, directors, and actors have lost the skills of their ancestors. But they are also cowardly, and in regimented fashion they simply parrot boring race, class, and gender bromides that are neither interesting nor funny. Does anyone believe that the Oscar ceremonies are more engaging and dignified than in the past? We have been fighting in Afghanistan without result for 18 years. Our forefathers helped to win World War II and defeat the Axis Powers in four years. In terms of learning, does anyone believe that a college graduate in 2020 will know half the information of a 1950 graduate?
In the 1940s, young people read William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck, and John Steinbeck. Are our current novelists turning out anything comparable? Could today’s high-school graduate even finish The Good Earth or The Grapes of Wrath? True, social media is impressive. The internet gives us instant access to global knowledge. We are a more tolerant society, at least in theory. But Facebook is not the Hoover Dam, and Twitter is not the Panama Canal. Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social-media junkies, and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle, and gripe. As we walk amid the refuse, needles, and excrement of the sidewalks of our fetid cities; as we sit motionless on our jammed ancient freeways; and as we pout on Twitter and electronically whine in the porticos of our Ivy League campuses, will we ask: “Who were these people who left these strange monuments that we use but can neither emulate nor understand?”
Perhaps the future will be ignorant peasants salvaging bits and scraps from the decaying cities that surround them, sometimes wondering about the supposed white Gods who once were thought to have lived there, but died off, killed by their own hubris.