Thursday, June 30, 2005

Calendrical Crap

Today, yet again, I heard someone say 'It's the 21st century' in the belief that this supported their opinion on something.
For the previous 100 years people said 'It's the 20th century, for God's sake' to clinch an argument.
It's quite likely that people used to say:
'I can't believe you're still hunting and gathering. It's the year 2068BC, for God's sake. Have you never heard of agriculture and domesticated animals?'
'What does 'BC' stand for?'
'Search me.'


The stupidity of this becomes clearer if you shorten the timescale:
'What do you mean you still believe in Marxism? You said that at breakfast. This is 7.30 in the evening.'

What does chronology have to do with truth or morality? Sweet F.A.
Indeed, one could go further and say that calendars and time itself are man-made concepts and have no intrinsic meaning whatsoever, never mind a relative or contextual one.

I suppose this constant citing of the current century derives from a view of 'progress' as an historical continuum, one of the features of the Whig view of history.
One seldom hears the century quoted in a contrasting context: 'The Government are locking people up without trial, but that must be all right because this is the 21st century.'
But you will probably hear: 'I can't believe that, in the 21st century, the Government are locking people up without trial.'

So the next time that someone you're arguing with says 'But this is the 21st century!' try one of these responses:

If I want to know what century it is I'll ask a policeman.
or
I'm so glad you've mastered the new Gregorian calendar.
or
My great aunt used to suffer from ingrowing toenails.

11 Comments:

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Betty said...

"But this is the 21st century!" sounds like a remark made by someone at a dinner party who has been necking a bit too much of the crisp, sparkling white. Presumably they believe that we have reached the pinnacle of civilization so everybody is now able to sit around at dinner parties making informed but polite conversation after necking a bit too much of the crisp, sparkling white.

Not me though - as a working class scrubber, I am of course likely to spend an evening throwing excrement at someone in the stocks, watching a good hang, drawing and quartering, and rolling around in the gutter after downing 30 jugs of mead. Therefore, I'm not sure which century we are living in.

 
At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely off-topic, Mr Lupin. Did you see Nancy's TV review in the Guardian this morning? She's describing Portillo when he lost his seat: "His air of haughty incredulity, like a llama surprised in a bath, was well worth waiting up for."

Priceless.

- Tony -

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

betty, that's an interesting class angle on it. It's also a phrase beloved of politicians....'making Britain a country fit for the 21st century, where people at dinner parties can say 'it's the 21st century!''

Tony, yes, that phrase was worthy of Wodehouse.
I don't usually read Nancy in the morning or I wouldn't write anything. Today I did....and I haven't written anything.

 
At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts, but you yourself have written: "And that hairstyle is so last century."

If you ask me, that comment was so last Tuesday.

 
At 7:56 PM, Blogger Rob said...

It irritates the hell out of me when someone is described as having been prosecuted under a "seven-hundred-year-old law" or whatever when a lazy journalist wishes to take issue with the prosecution. It even irritates me when *I* disagree with the prosecution. An example would be when Mary Whitehouse prosecuted Gay News for blasphemous libel for publishing James Kirkup's "The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name". That was wrong in so many ways (not least because in a just society the editors of Gay News would have been languishing in jail for crimes against aesthetics for publishing Kirkup's dismal junk to begin with, possibly with cockroaches and rats added to the languishing for the appallingly tasteless illustration they attached to it). I would have loved for Mrs Whitehouse to get a bloody nose over the whole affair: but the fact that the law she was using was passed in the Middle Ages or whatever doesn't invalidate it. That would be like saying "Charles Manson, prosecuted under a centuries-old statute adopted from old British law, was today charged with multiple homicide". What, I feel like asking, is necessarily so wonderful about the laws being passed by our current government, or its predecessors over the last thirty years?

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Anon: the phrase you quote had invisible inverted commas round it. It was tongue in cheek...ironic....sarcastic. It's not a phrase I would ever normally use.

Rob, yes, that's another common example of using a completely irrelevant fact to support an argument.

 
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