Timeout Tuesday

Nothing has changed

I’ve gone back to picking up heavier reading now that I’ve finished with “Library of Souls”, the third book in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine series.

Before I gave birth to my eldest (and this was back in 2012), I was plowing through biographies of British monarchs, specifically, those of the Tudor period. I’d stopped when I realised that the story of Anne Boleyn’s unfair trial might not be the best belly reading.

Now I’ve backtracked a little. I’ve picked up Alison Weir’s biography of Katherine Swynford. It’s interesting how such an important woman was “lost” in the depths of history.

I am deeply fascinated by British monarchs, though I’m not entirely sure where the fascination came from. Perhaps it was the realisation that all the books I’d been reading as a child were rooted in European history: my favourite fairy tales were those by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. Lest it be said that I have no pride in my own country’s history, believe me, I am leaving that one for last primarily for the fact that our history is so muddy and muddled that I want time to really read through a variety of references.

Here’s a very interesting passage from this particular reading though:

She lived in a society that faced similar problems to those we face today, a postimperial world in which people were fast losing faith in an authoritarian government that seemed unable or unwilling to deal effectively with the practical problems it faced, and insisted on pursuing victory at all costs in a war that could never be won. A world suffering from the effects of rampant monetary inflation, a terrible increase in lawlessness, a decline in morality, and the rise of muscular mercantile organizations whose power was equal to that of today’s multinational corporations. A world in which people suffered under unjust increases in taxation; in which the rich experienced the breaking up of great estates, and the working classes increasingly flexed their political muscles. A world in which religious fundamentalism was challenged by a society grown disillusioned with organized religion. And a world that, at the same time, witnessed an improvement in standards of living and the unprecedented growth of consumer culture.

It all sounds so…familiar. Weir was right in describing it as “faced similar problems to those we face today”. It all cycles.

It reminded me of that moment just a little over a year ago when my husband and I brought our son with us to watch “Mockingjay Part 1”. Oh, I know it’s not for children his age. We can discuss that another time. But here’s the thing:

As we watched, he was fascinated, maybe even a little captivated by the images of war that unfolded before him. It was at that point when the folk of District 7 (?) were about to destroy a dam. I held my son on my lap and whispered:

“They’re starting a revolution, baby. You see, when a group of people who have the same beliefs come together and agree that the system they live with is wrong, they can choose to make a change. Sometimes, the change can be done peacefully. Sometimes, this is what happens. War can happen and sometimes, people die. There are people who die for what they believe in. That’s how strongly they believe that what they are doing is right.

“Is it right? Maybe. It can be right for a long time. But when that time passes and someone or a group of someones come together and decide they disagree with the system and want things to change, it all happens again. Things change. People will want change.

“It’s not wrong to disagree with other people and have your own opinion. It is important to think for yourself and choose for yourself. But all roads lead to change and not everyone will accept it.”

How much his (nearly) 2-year-old mind would retain of that, I don’t know. But we did take him to see the second part of Mockingjay. And we took him to see Star Wars Episode VII. Someday we will have to explain all of this to him again.

But I think one of the things I will be sure to teach him is the importance of history. To learn from. To make today better with.

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