Tyrades! By Danny Tyree
Unless you’re talking to time travelers or the severely inebriated, please do not use the phrase “This is 2014″ this year.
You know the drill: people backed into a corner try settling an argument by announcing “This is (insert current year)” — often followed by a flippant “Get with the program” or a shrugged “What can ya do?”
People use the phrase when (a) jumping on the bandwagon of the latest retreat from traditional Judeo-Christian values, (b) excusing some boorish activity that would make Miss Manners faint or (c) badgering a reluctant acquaintance into embracing this week’s cutting-edge, must-have technological marvel.
Granted, “This is (insert current year)” is a dandy PREFACE to an argument; but many debaters make it their entire case. They glance past the puppies or vintage cars on the cover to double-check the date, blurt out their brilliant observation, assume a self-satisfied smile, and wait for your mountain of facts, figures and logical arguments to crumble before them.
Tyrants wrap themselves in the flag. Blowhards wrap themselves in the calendar.
Despite the example of millennia of rising and falling civilizations, customs and beliefs, some of us harbor the conceit that the current year is the culmination of human development, or at least a checkpoint for the inexorable march of Progress.
But people living in, say, 1974, crowed “This is 1974″ just as proudly as we crow about the current year. Like any other year, 1974 might claim some diplomatic gestures or medical breakthroughs of lasting consequence; but it also had its share of embarrassing fashions, feet-of-clay political messiahs, ultimately reversed Supreme Court rulings and later-discredited “settled science.”
The formula for assessing the spirit of a year seems to rest on shifting sands. When does a truth become self-evident? When is the speaker asserting “This is (insert current year)” triumphantly vindicated? Is it when “everybody” is cool with a certain policy, societal change or gadget? Is it when a slim majority goes along? Is it when a practice is “still fringe, but it’s, um, TRENDING like crazy”?
If there is no standard, proclamations of “This is (insert current year)” are WORTHLESS —except for intimidating the weak-willed.
Is “This is (insert current year)” really a timeless truth? People may experience a year differently, based on culture, age and economic status.
Invoking the calendar as an arbiter of right and wrong is a two-edged sword. People in bygone eras could have announced the year in order to justify “This is a good year for lynching slaves” or “This is a good year for gassing Jews.”
If you simply must say “This is 2014,” at least say, “This is 2014 — the year I’ll get my thoughts together, rather than relying on emotion and slogans.”
You don’t have to adopt all the teachings of the classical philosophers when assembling your logical arguments; but wouldn’t it be an even crazier world if the Socratic method consisted of nothing but repeating, “Hey, this is 409 B.C. — get with the program”?
Surviving and thriving in this old world requires hard work as we separate good from evil, necessary from frivolous and doable from impossible. A shortcut such as “This is (insert current year) — go with the flow” runs the risk of having society flow right down the drain.
©2014 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info on using columns, please email Cari Dawson Bartley at email@example.com or call 800 696 7561.