As I mentioned, we were in Colonial Williamsburg for Thanksgiving. It was a really, really special trip with our extended family.
We saw a LOT of old things.
Quills, wood burning stoves, carriages, hatchets, brick oven fires. Bed pans.
You know what the colonialists might have preferred? I don’t know. Microsoft Word; a 2500 watt, self-cleaning, freestanding GE range top; central heating. Maybe a magic bowl that whisks away your bowel movements.
I’ve barked about this before but old things aren’t better. They’re just old. And, first.
A friend of this site sent this article about how some schools are ensuring that penmanship endures, even in the face of digital technology’s inevitable march. I’m generally in favor of this. At my son’s school the parents could elect whether or not to have our children taught script. We did. I like the arguments that cursive enhances coordination and motor skills and that it might still be valuable for speed in certain testing environs, essay, Advanced Placement, etc.
But, do you know why handwriting exists? Because the Egyptians didn’t have a Dell. And, do you know why script and other decorative calligraphy exists? Because the Saxons didn’t have Snell Roundhand Black typeface in their font library. As soon as Guttenberg found a shortcut, you didn’t see monks still romantically hand scribing books for the fun of it. Well maybe some. But that’s just because they had taken a vow of celibacy. They had some energy to burn, so to speak.
So as to old stuff you should feel free to take it or leave it. If you like old technology and vestige, cool. Read by oil lamp. Wear a neck cravat. Harass a wench. But, if you value things like illumination and automatic drive and remote controls and your news even, let’s say, a day less than a week old when you receive it, then don’t feel bullied by other people’s nostalgia.
I wrestled with my own sentiments walking around this city dedicated to freezing in suspended animation the way things were. In fairness, Colonial Williamsburg, itself, doesn’t advertise as some “better time.” In fact, it tried to be frank about the burden antiquated technology placed on the lives of the people that used it and confessed all that it got wrong with respect to blacks and women and religion.
But, Williamsburg at its finest is not about old things. Rather, it stands as a monument to the value of certain old ideas that we’d be good not to forget. Virtues and principles and philosophies. Hard work and ingenuity and community and the idea that government corrupts true religion. Or maybe the idea that not all power should be invested in one person or body politic but should be separated among diffuse individuals and branches.
The Middle East, and frankly much of the world, has long struggled with this last point where I think America has greatly succeeded. Many governments prefer to consolidate rather than separate power. It’s wildly more efficient.
Just this weekend, Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi issued a series of measures preventing Egypt’s courts from challenging any laws or decrees passed since he assumed office in June. Apparently Morsi is attempting to prevent the courts from dissolving Egypt’s legislative body which is in the process of drafting a new Constitution. The courts in Egypt are traditionally responsible for running the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections.
Considering Egypt’s recent political unrest, such suspension of power might be justified. I’m not informed enough to know. But anytime checks on executive power, like the judicial system, are diminished, the risk of abuse abounds.
So when our government is slow or when the sovereign branches fight or when the state and national governments seem irretrievably at odds, be thankful. It’s for our own good.
We are free to be sentimental about toys or songs or handwriting from a bygone era. Some of us will more relish the advantages of our present progress. Either way, the “stuff” of our past and present will all pass. But, ideas, whether poorly judged or wise, should never be forgotten.
The opening two lines of today’s blong are a tribute to the greatest emcee that ever was.
Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced dj transform. Concepted by Conduct Lionhardt.
Today’s blong here: