Many stories about gods and heroes of Greek mythology were compiled during the Greek Dark Ages. Impoverished tribes passed down oral traditions that originated after the fall of the lost palatial civilizations of the Mycenaean Greeks.
Dark Age Greeks tried to make sense of the massive ruins of their forgotten forbears’ monumental palaces that were still standing around. As illiterates, they were curious about occasional clay tablets they plowed up in their fields with incomprehensible ancient inscriptions.
We of the 21st century are beginning to look back at our own lost epic times and wonder about these now-nameless giants who left behind monuments that we cannot replicate, but instead merely use or even mock.
Does anyone believe that contemporary Americans could build another transcontinental railroad in six years?
Californians tried to build a high-speed rail line. But after more than a decade of government incompetence, lawsuits, cost overruns and bureaucratic squabbling, they have all but given up — and not yet a foot of track laid.
Who were those giants of the 1960s responsible for building our interstate highway system?
America went to the moon in 1969 with supposedly primitive computers and backward engineering. Does anyone believe we could launch a similar moonshot today?
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.
We have been fighting in Afghanistan without result for 18 years. Our forefathers helped to win World War II and defeat the Axis nations 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. 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, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.
“Who were these people who left these strange monuments that we use but can neither emulate nor understand?”
In comparison to us, they now seem like gods.