Monday, November 12, 2012

Before my time

It’s time for a rant, but not before I admit to a guilty pleasure... I like to watch TV quiz shows. Not game shows – good, heavens, I am not that uncouth. But shows where people have to answer questions, to demonstrate that they know stuff. I probably get this from my parents who always record one show while watching another. And my father collects trivia the way a bowerbird collects brightly coloured objects.

Now for the rant. There are two particular things that get up my nose when I am watching these shows. One is the oft-repeated remark, “That was before my time.” There is an invisible barrier, apparently, that prevents knowledge from seeping through from the past into the present. If something happened before I was born, or before I became aware of the world around me (these people seem to imply) how can I possibly be expected to know it? Well, I have news for you: almost everything is before all of our times. How very sad if we are unable to accommodate into our sphere of knowledge anything that occurred before our own fleeting existence upon this planet. Dinosaurs were (just) before my time, but that doesn’t prevent me from having a smattering of knowledge about them. I think this may be a symptom of the pressure to be “up-to-date”. It is as though everything at the present time somehow replaces and forces into irrelevance the things of the past. Believing this will be to our detriment.

The second thing to insinuate its way into my nasal cavity is a certain attitude towards literature. More than once I have heard people remark that they have never read a book in their life. This is likely to be an exaggeration, I suspect (I suppose these people did go to school – although I have heard many stories about how students these days, if they have a novel as assigned reading, will borrow the movie on DVD rather than read the book).They state this with no sense of shame or embarrassment; they wear it as a badge of honour. They might just as well be saying, “I don’t breathe. Oxygen is so highly overrated!”

These people can die of anoxia, if they choose. They can die of bibliophobia, if they like. They can kill themselves by tearing out their roots from the soil of the past. They’ll probably even think they are doing something really cool and clever.

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