The Horrible 90s Hit Song That Explains The Modern World

The Cracked Podcast #74 May 18, 2015

In his new column going up tomorrow, David Wong uses the hilariously outdated Billy Joel song ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ to illustrate a confounding problem with dominant white and western culture. The song chronologically lists everything that’s gone wrong in the world from 1949 to 1989 in between choruses of “We didn’t start the fire,” meaning, “Hey, it’s not my fault that the world is so fucked up.”

It’s a common and understandable knee-jerk reaction for people in the 21st century to think that just because they were born in the 1980s, or that their grandparents didn’t come to America until the 20th century, that they’re not responsible for something like slavery. Yes, it’s true that you’re not individually to blame for slavery, but you still may reap countless invisible benefits from being a white male in the 21st century that you just don’t get if you’re African-American, or from a poor family, or a woman. There’s an endless context to complicated social matters that doesn’t just begin or end with, “I didn’t start the fire.”

That was just one example of the ways in which many people are blind to the historical context in which we liveā€“that every moment in the present is either consciously or subconsciously tied to the entire history of our species. This week on the podcast, Jack O’Brien is joined by David Wong (aka Jason Pargin) and Josh Sargent to discuss these historical blindspots and how they’re being slowly eroded by the human progress of the last two centuries.

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