Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Stationary Bike of Progress

Life is a stationary bike and each generation gets on it, pedals as hard as they can until they die and fall off and then, the next generation gets on and says, “Well, they didn’t make it, but we’re going somewhere.”

The myth of progress and generational amnesia.
We still all act like the myth is true and we still all suffer from the disease.

Frankly I'm embarrassed by how little I know about history even recent history, my own country and even my own family. It's as if I think to myself 'I wasn't alive so it can't have been that important...honestly.' So many people find it difficult to get along with the older generation. Why would we be interested in a time before our one? If we're honest I think that on some level we're embarrassed by their ideas. Their outlook on the world seemed so terribly shallow and naive compared to ours. We've got the internet.

Not once does it occur to us that maybe our grandkids will be saying the same things about us in fifty years. 'Ah but we're different,' we say 'We've shaken off the shackles of the past, we're liberal, we're free thinkers, we're post-modern, we're... just as naive as they were.'

'Not even God could sink this ship.' Employee of the White Star Line at the launch of the Titanic May 31, 1911

We are still living within a generation of World War II. We're connected to the war by the people who are still alive who fought in it but we don't listen to them very much, we don't make room for them, I rarely think to ask them about it, to learn, to receive the wisdom of history. We've moved on, the world's changed - we've walked on the moon now.

We revere the young and we pour scorn on the old. Our heroes are the beautiful and the artistic not the noble and courageous. If a person can sing and dance well then they are worthy of international acclaim or if someone appears on our television screen we turn them into a national symbol and we go weak at the knees when they walk into a room. We call people 'great' without really knowing what the word means, we cheapen it when we use it for rock stars and game show hosts. We are great believers in 'learning the lessons of the past' but we have become so charmed by the present that we think that history is of very little concern to us. The strange thing is that we are connected to the past and to the people who lived then more than we understand. The DNA in our body, our mannerisms, our habits, we really aren't all that different from the people who lived 500 years ago.

'Why should I care what the war-generation have to say, Cheryl Cole is singing on TV/Frank Lampard's love life is in the news/Coleen Rooney's new perfume's available to buy.'

I write this as a record to myself to read over again next January. I want to remind myself not to fall into the abyss of the present.

My dad was passionate about history, he seemed to know the answer to every question I could ask him. From Nelson and Waterloo to the Battle of Hastings or Agincourt, he had read it, reflected on it and put it into the file of who he was. As I see it I owe it to Riley not to allow him to think that 2010 onwards was a unique period in Earth's history. Life exists outside of us, the world carries on with or without us. We need to be cured of our incessant narcissism, the 'into-me' disease since we're all so 'into-me'. We rarely think to look too far outside of ourselves for answers. This needs to change.

By the way, when I say 'we' I mean 'me'.

1 comment:

Mark P said...

Now this I can relate to. Well written and thought provoking.