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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Winter in Halifax


The first few minutes are grim, but then we get to people going about their daily lives. Quite a few appear to be cheerful enough, even on a cold January day in Halifax. Check out the impromptu boxing match from about 6:50.

If we watch old movie clips of ordinary people getting on with their lives, cheerfulness seems to break out fairly easily, especially when the camera is spotted and especially when children spot it. Why is that when they have so much less than we have?

They don’t know they are missing antibiotics, television, mobile phones, central heating and modern dentistry. They are completely adapted to their times because that’s what people do. We adapt and in adapting it becomes difficult or impossible for us to look back without distortion. Adaptation creates a veil over other possibilities, other lifestyles. We cannot easily tell how those Halifax folk could ever be cheerful without our standard of living and our health care. We cannot easily tell why we are not far more cheerful as a result.

It doesn’t mean we’d be better off in old Halifax, but those long dead people may have been as cheerful as we are in spite of everything we tell our children about the horrors of life in’t mill a century ago. Not that the horrors weren’t real. They were real but our perspective magnifies them because we haven’t adapted to a hard life. We can’t see their lives through eyes adapted to their times and not ours.

Does it matter? Yes it does because it doesn't only apply to historical times. We vote for powerful people because we place them in our world and put our eyes into their heads. We don't see ourselves through their eyes. If we did we wouldn't vote for them. 

6 comments:

Demetrius said...

Yorkshire, Hull, Hell and Halifax as we used to say. At least, in Lancashire. It wasn't much different in the late 1940's.

Henry Kaye said...

What treasures these old movies are! I'm surprised that they have lasted. You are quite right about the cheerfulness of most of the faces. I wonder what they thought of their government then - did they feel as controlled and manipulated as so many of us do today? I think, perhaps, not.

James Higham said...

Perhaps it's better we don't know what they think of us.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - I've been to Hull and Halifax, but not the other one - yet.

Henry - they probably felt remote from government and much more in tune with their own resources.

James - I think we can guess though.

Michael said...

Incredible footage!

It's amazing to see a small dog with the early signs of rickets, and the Dartvader competition being judged by a horse!

I'd have put 2:1 on the balding bloke, who had clearly lost out on the amorous delights of Mrs Eckerslike, and wanted a 'discussion' with her perspiring suitor...

A K Haart said...

Scrobs - I'm not so sure about the balding bloke's staying power. Perhaps Mrs Eckerslike already knew about that.