The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, July 11, 2003

How eventful have the last 19 years been? That's the question that came to my mind upon hearing of Terry Wallis, who one month ago awakened from a coma he went into in 1984.

Imagine what a jarring effect it would be for you. The immediate thing to be conscious of is your own body: It's aged two decades, in far from ideal conditions (in this case, the accident that plunged him into a coma left him a quadriplegic). You'd have to adjust to your own skin, literally.

Moving beyond the self, think about how your surrounding have all changed, all seemingly overnight. Wallis' daughter, a newborn in 1984, is now nearly full-grown at 19. Other family members and friends are older and dead.

Moving in a concentric circle beyond yourself, think about the wider world, and how much things have changed since 1984. I have to admit, this is what really grabbed me. At first, I was kind of blase about the final 20 years of the 20th century; maybe because I lived them, it was hard for me to recognize fundamental changes. Sure, technological advances are obvious: The Internet, telecommunications in general, medicine and other areas are wholly different now (even though a lot of those things had their origins back in the 80s, and even the 70s). But beyond that?

Well, the general climate is definitely more conservative than even during the Reagan era. Back then, the purely political sphere was indeed tilting back to the right, but socially and economically, it wasn't as clear-cut. I think things in those areas have moved much more firmly into Republican territory now. Worldwide, there are definitely huge changes from the mid-80s: No more Soviet Union. A united Germany. A more integrated Europe. An emerging China. Geo-politically, all kinds of wild changes.

I chatted briefly with a couple of colleagues earlier today about this. The first things that they came up with, half-jokingly, were all the new and exciting consumer products: Sprite Remixed, Cherry Coke, etc. Interesting way to approach things! Then I considered: One of Wallis' first words post-coma was "Pepsi". I guess the consumer instinct is deeply ingrained within us...