Billy Joel released this song in September of 1989. The troubles he lists are ONLY the ones that we as a world have been faced with since his own birth in 1949 to the time the song was written. Every single event (over 100 different ones) that he lists were headlines in their times. The visual he marries to this song is the life of a family from 1949 into the future. It’s not that he’s chronicling his family history, but the life of an average, white-bread American family through the decades.
The point of the song, however, is very poignant — and still appropriate today. Even if Billy actually hated it, as did a few of the critics, but I think it was a great song for the times. The 80s (and sadly, many of the years since then) have been a time when individualism is sliding ever more deeply into the concept of “Me first, Me only, Screw YOU!”
No, we didn’t start the fire — it seems to be human nature to do atrocities to each other, whether for some twisted sense of gratification. But each of us bears the responsibility to try to CHANGE our world.
It’s like you’re home with your family, and your house catches fire. Would you really just sit there and ignore it? Or escape it yourself, not caring if the rest got saved? Or would you warn your family to get out if possible, and save the lives of those who cannot get out of the house under their own power?
Do I think we’ll ever attain a utopia? No, I’m not wearing those particular rose-colored glasses. The human race is incapable of agreeing on anything. What may be a utopia for you is likely to be a tyranny to someone else.
But, we DO need to stop blaming previous generations for screwing up the world. Only children can be that self-centered and self-absorbed, we adults need to be better. It’s not that we can’t blame for the depravities of history that they have made, but we desperately need to STOP pointing fingers and actually DO SOMETHING about it.
We need to stop acting like the kids in the old comic “Family Circus:”
We’re adults, FFS!
Looking back on my own listing of global events during my life (1969 – now), there are many positive headlines and movements that I have seen. Life is not always as dark as many of us think. We’re making inroads into many of the more egregious issues, and making sure people are actually aware of the casual fires people have ignored for centuries.
Change comes, but it comes only slowly. And it only happens if there are enough people dedicated to that change to make it happen.
Are you going to help stop the fire? Or be the arsonist that feeds fuel to it?