HISTORIES AND ROOTS


Wall, Bermuda. There is a much extended caption here.

The past is closer than most people think. Its roots are in our past and its tendrils stretch tentatively into our present. When I was born in 1950, electrification was still something of a novelty my home village, having been introduced maybe three years earlier. If you think the internet has changed people's lives, think how much more of a change was wrought by electricity and running water.

Even if you are not very old, you can almost certainly remember things that have changed in your lifetime, and the older you are, the more you can see that has changed. For example, when I was in primary school it was regarded quite reasonable to carry a pen-knife, and by secondary school it was pretty much normal; but there was no hysteria about "knife crime". This was probably because we rarely stuck them into each other. We used to play in the street, but there was far less traffic about; and if there was traffic, we'd play in the park, where there'd be a uniformed "Parkie" (park attendant).

Because mobile 'phones have become so widespread in the last 20 years or so, it is easy to forget that 50 years ago, before mobile 'phones existed, many houses did not have land lines. Nor did they necessarily have refrigerators; central heating was still comparatively rare; hardly anyone had a separate freezer (just the one in the 'fridge, if they had a 'fridge); and washing machines were still something of a luxury. On the other hand we still had street sweepers and public toilets and manned ticket offices and all kinds of other things that the country apparently can't afford nowadays.

It's easy, of course, to tell ourselves that we should be "grateful" for what we have, but grateful to whom? Hardly to God, Who (presumably, if She exists) is the same God that took my mother with cancer in her mid-40s. I'm not really very grateful for that.

No, it's luck, and progress and political will. The phrase “those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it” is variously attributed, and is probably somewhat overrated by those who trot it out overly frequently; but we can learn from history, and besides, sometimes it's just interesting even if we don't learn anything “useful”.

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