We Are Not So Different from the Past

“What is past is prologue,”

William Shakespeare: ‘The Tempest’ (1611) act 2, sc. 1, l. [261]

After I posted a recent piece (Link here), a friend reminded me of a book I’d read several years ago called Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. The book is a masterful piece of science fiction writing.

Published in 1937, the book tells an imaginative tale of the universe. Told with the dust from World War I still settling, the pain of the depression fresh in the minds of many, and the rise of fascism—both foreign and domestic—on the horizon, Stapledon offered some interesting perspectives.

I decided to re-read the book. Several lines from the introduction caught my eye. These words, written more than eighty years ago, speak of the political chasm between the left and the right, liberal and conservative, that some see today as a new phenomenon.

Perhaps it is not.

Stapledon recognized the vast differences between the left and the right and felt the need to warn his readers of the reaction his words might foster

“At the risk of raising thunder both on the Left and on the Right, I have occasionally used certain ideas and words derived from religion, and I have tried to interpret them in relation to modern needs. The valuable, though much damaged words “spiritual” and “worship,” which have become almost as obscene to the Left as the good old sexual words are to the Right, are here intended to suggest an experience which the Right is apt to pervert and the Left to misconceive.”

It would seem our differences have always been with us. Technology has just made it easier to write or publicize whatever one believes without the safety mechanism of editing, writing with any semblance of logic, fact-checking, or subjecting oneself to the criticism of those one hopes to influence.

We can merely block those who hold opposing views or claim them to be fake.  By ignoring or discounting those with whom we disagree, we lose the opportunity to meld opposing views into a consensus of real value.

It would seem we may have always been this way.

While each moment may be unique to those in the middle of it, there really is very little new under the sun.


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