Archive for the ‘Two Solitudes’ Category

Future Nostalgia
March 1, 2013

This column first appeared in the March All Month Edition of the Friday Am in Salmon Arm.

I recently read Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan with my book club. The book was written in 1945 and was set in a small village in Quebec during World War One. It was a very nostalgic read for me. I’ve been to places just like those villages. I’m a descendant of the real people those characters had to have been based on. I’m sure of it.

At first, I was surprised at how antiquated the thinking seemed. How could they have thought those things? How old fashioned. But as I read on, it occurred to me that one day, people will say the same things about us. Great authors will write amazing books about our time and our thinking will also seem old fashioned, antiquated and in some cases, just plain wrong.

We like to think we’re so modern with our tech devices and our instant communication. It does come in pretty handy. But when the really big events hit, word spreads because of people, not things. The gadgets might have changed and the ways information is transferred has sped up but we’re still the same. We make decisions based on our upbringing, our values, our cultural mores and what we know now, not what we don’t know yet.

It got me to thinking what, exactly, people will say about these times in fifty years from now. Will they say that we thought prosperity was about access to the biggest markets and the cheapest goods.  Will they say we thought income disparity was just a by-product of a healthy economy? Will they say that we thought poverty was a fact of life and there wasn’t much we could do about it? Will they say we commodified debt both personal and public? I wonder if they’ll giggle at our love of stainless steel appliances and granite countertops like we giggle at avocado-coloured fridges and orange flowered wallpaper in the kitchens of the seventies. I really do wonder.

One thing is for sure, everything we do now is based on everything we’ve done before. And we have to approach new thinking and new doing by first acknowledging that. I hope the future will say we tried our best, despite what little we knew, to move things forward. I’m not so sure about that but I suppose it’s something we can all think about in our private moments of solitude.