The longue durée, paying taxes after pestilence, boomers, ancient greeks, make art when the time ghost is at the door.
Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded in one hour by @thejaymo
Living In A Time Of History
Today’s episode is a little weird. I couldn’t focus my thoughts this morning.
The Flu I’ve been afraid of since an epidemiologist scared me shitless about a decade ago is coming.
What you are about to hear is some sort of free writing essay that seems to be more dream logic than coherent argument. I’m away next week, but Huw Lemmey will be in the 301 hot seat with a coherent episode on the peasant crusaders of the middle ages.
It’s funny isn’t it. As the days pass to slowly become aware that you are alive in a time of capital H History. That the collective narrative has reached you personally and woven you into its plot. Everyone is potentially now a main character. The zeitgeist is here lads, get it a beer. The time ghost has come to haunt you.
Last year in episode 1921 – Spider-Man’s MCU No Deal Webxit I talked about my suspicion that Big media, an industry that rides and exploits the zeitgeist have gotten stuck in a Fukuyamian fugue state. Unable to break out of remixing the past. History however never stops. Much to the chagrin of people who run our economy and political parties.
Things continue to unfold, the sun comes up and the sun goes down.
In The History Manifesto by Jo Guldi and David Armitage they write
Regardless of age or security of income, we are all in the business of making sense of a changing world. In all cases, understanding the nexus of past and future is crucial to acting upon what comes next. But who writes about these changes as long-term developments? Who nourishes those looking for brighter futures with the material from our collective past? Centuries and epochs are often mysteries too deep and wide for journalists to concern themselves with. Only in rare conversations does anyone notice that there are continuities that are relevant and possible to see.
Who is trained to wait steadily upon these vibrations of deeper time and then translate them for others?Jo Guldi and David Armitage – The History Manifesto
I sometimes wonder about the Boomers. Brought up on a diet of cold war propaganda and in a childhood psychic environment of the threat of nuclear conflagration that could begin at any moment. I wonder if this explains many of their generational quirks. I also sometimes think that the children of 68, not only won. And continue to win. At the expense of everyone else. The way a steeplejack carries the ladder up behind them. Their revolution is still ongoing and they continue to fight hard for it. I don’t like generational politics as I think that way leads to 21st Century fascism.
Jo and David’s book calls for a return of grand narratives of history. Long term thinking both backwards and forwards. I agree with them and really support their point of view. But when the time ghost is at the door you don’t need to stray far into any history book and see yourself in its pages.
When pestilence swept through the whole known world in 541 AD wiping out most of the farming community and of necessity leaving a trail of desolation in its wake, the then byzantine emperor Justinian showed no mercy towards the ruined freeholders. Even then, he did not refrain from demanding the annual tax, not only the amount at which he assessed each individual, but also the amount for which his deceased neighbours were liable.
During that time in Constantinople 1500 years ago. 10k people were supposed to have been dying a day. And yet the power structure still demanded its thite. Could you imagine it back then? Having to pay your dead neighbours taxes as well as your own, in the midst of all that trauma?
Boomers were the first generation in history to get fully vaccinated: Deadly influenza, measles, mumps, smallpox, polio, cholera and many more are words that when you speak their name out loud should carry the full weight of their historical trauma. We are here because others aren’t.
The grandfather of #stacktivism John Snow drew his map in 1854. Creating the discipline of epidemiology, a science that most people hadn’t even heard of until perhaps a week ago. But despite its acclaim and influence every dot on his map is a local and very human trauma. An event that killed 616 people.
Can you imagine it? Whenever I read a history book I try to put my mind towards these people’s everyday experiences. What it must have been like to live or exist in a world that seemed so random, so cruel. The Plague of Athens during the second year of the Peloponnesian War literally created philosophy. The people of ancient Greece experienced a crisis of meaning very similar to the one we are living through today and they began to think there way out of the void.
Yesterday’s market crash, the worst since 1987 alone would be the front page news under any other narrative framing. But it’s not. The 1.5 trillion in treasuries loans announced yesterday isn’t really either. We could be witnessing a wholesale breakdown of our institutions in real time: the social contract associated with democratic rule, the media, the healthcare and higher ed industrial complexes.
There have been many people calling online for artists and musicians to make their best art, perhaps like the Ancient Greeks all these events will compound and accelerate the meaning crisis towards a conclusion. The time ghost has been on hiatus since 2008, it’s now 2020 and borrowed time is now due.
There’s no money for healthcare but there’s 1.5 trillion for liquidity in the treasuries markets. No money for free schooling, but there’s money for the endless war on terror. Perhaps from this moment new epistemologies will arise. It is not a time to scoff and be reactionary about others emerging understandings of the nature of the world. We’ve had over 100 years of pure ideology alone, and the parts of society we are proud of have atrophied.
Make some art or some music and tell me how you feel about the ghost whos at the door.
Almost all notable bits of European history beginning with a good plague.
The above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.