Saturday, 21 January 2012

Lived-in history

I’ve reached that age we all reach sooner or later where a scary chunk of history happened during my lifetime and I’m wondering what to make of it in an optimistic kind of way. Because I don’t want to sink into that cast of mind where you remember everything as better than it is now - the good old days that were no such thing.

Even so, after giving this question quite a bit of thought, I do think some things are getting worse. On the whole I think important areas of my bit of the universe have gone into decline.

It isn’t necessarily a catastrophe, because we adapt and we’ll no doubt adapt to whatever it is lurking just below our horizon. No use trying to predict what that may be though. It’ll just happen and we’ll react, but if the lot in charge don’t change more than somewhat, we’ll won’t react in time and we’ll not make the best of things. As usual.

I certainly don't see a uniform decline - some things are better than they were. We have more money, better access to information and life is generally more comfortable for most, even those living in so-called poverty. But in getting to where we are now, we didn’t improve many of the things we should have improved and others we made worse.

For me, a major aspect of the decline is being lied to by political leaders, big business, the BBC and major institutions as a matter of routine. I don’t like all the lying – apart from anything else it isn’t dignified for a supposedly civilised country. Lying should not be a profession, a business-tool or a career move, but it has become all of these things. We don't confront it properly either - because all that lying gets in our way.

We are evasive too. Of course all periods of history had their taboo subjects, those things which should have been brought out into the open but never were. But during my life we've disposed of some taboo subjects and replaced them with others, or we've made some subjects difficult to discuss, such as attitudes to racial and cultural differences and the decline of the nuclear family. The lying we barely discuss at all, yet truthfulness was once seen as important.

We in the UK can't pretend to be a nation any longer either - not in the sense I grew up with. The loss of our British nation and with it our democracy looms large for me, because I can’t see any possibility of resuscitating what my father helped fight a war to preserve. In a way I feel responsible, that my generation has taken most of life's goodies and allowed the important things to slide, democracy and respect for truth being the big ones for me.

Education too. It's a complex issue I know, but I feel that at the very least it hasn’t been improved during my lifetime. For example, who now trusts exam results?

How about science? Well science was my career, but it has declined enormously even during my lifetime. Now much of it is silly, exaggerated or even downright fraudulent and polluted by ghastly would-be science celebrities who say things for effect and play down uncertainties. As for climate science - well utterly shameful is all I can bring myself to say about that at the moment.

Materially things are better and the freedom to write this blog and say these things is a great plus. I’m sitting here in a warm room with my laptop and with a few clicks I can explore a world far bigger than anything I ever imagined a few decades ago. In that respect life is good.

But it should have been better, more honest, more civilized and less silly. To make it so, I’d have willingly done without some of the material progress - maybe even all of it. Now I suspect it's too late. 


Demetrius said...

What is really scary is that now it is often only possible to seek out and find a truth by determined searching of the net. We are being lied to routinely by so many people at all levels that we live in a fog of words without meanings.

A K Haart said...

D - I agree and you are never quite sure about the information you come across. Cynicism helps - he said cynically!