Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Don't Know Much 'bout History


“Those who control the past, control the present. Those who control the present, control the future.”

The quote may not be exactly verbatim, it’s a memory of a line from Orwell’s 1984. It kind of highlights the point though – if it’s not exact then I have taken control of the past, and now, in the present, and for the future – if I relate the quote to others – it will remain as I have presented it.

Let us put that clumsy display of the importance of history aside, and move on to today’s post.

Last night Monkey Pipe waited to meet up with a group of people that had before which been nothing but a collection of words and avatars on a website that I visit. I don’t have the best of track records with meeting a) new people and b) new people that I have met through inter-net forums. It’s not that I’m anti-social, just that I’m socially very clumsy.

The last time that I met up with people that I had hitherto known only through text was about 8 years ago, when a group of like minded football fans decided to descend to a pub in South London and watch a game. I got there early, as someone who used to have a hang up on punctuality does, and nabbed a table – got a couple of drinks – and waited for the others to arrive. They did. In lieu of talking I would drink, and so ended the night by vomiting into the pub’s urinal and jumping in a cab to take me home, trying to pay with a coffee machine token and a tiddlywinks’ chip (why I had those is another story). Not the most affirmative of impressions.

Again, last night, I arrived early and flicked through a paper that I’d picked up. The place was fairly busy and a quiz night was in progress. Part of my mind was taking in the news, the other part was following those questions that I could catch.

“Question 16!” the Quiz Master yelled out, “Where did the biggest surrender of Commonwealth Troops in history take place?”

“Singapore.” I whispered, half remembering something that Laurence Olivier had said on the World at War.

A group stood at the bar began to ponder the question.

“For some reason, I’m thinking of Bora Bora…” one of them uttered. My attention moved from the paper and fully to them.

“No,” another slurred, “I think the whole point was that we didn’t surrender at Dunkirk.”

“Oh!” a third one exclaimed, “I think it might have something to do with Ghandi!”

Now I appreciate that not everyone shares an interest in History, but these people were older than me, they were part of history. Not old enough to have lived through Dunkirk or Ghandi – but old enough to have seen the film at least! In one aspect these are the people that do control the past, and this is the best that they have to offer the future? So what if they don’t know that Bora Bora saw no action during WWII, and even if it had, it was a US military supply base. They kind of understood that the point of Dunkirk was that we didn’t surrender – good for them. I have no idea what they thought Ghandi did.

I flicked back to the paper and waited for the first of my friends to arrive. They did. We chatted. It was a good night. Not by any means historic, but, hey, who cares about history now days?

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