The Dean's blog: May you live in Interesting Times
The blessing: ’May you live in interesting times’, is of course a curse in disguise. Uninteresting times of peace and order are preferable over living in interesting disruptive ones. Unfortunately, our times are becoming more interesting by the day.
The American historian, Timothy Snyder warns against political boredom. His lecture on the necessity of historical awareness and the desirability of historical imagination, is worthwhile watching on YouTube. Snyder is especially worried about today’s youth. According to him, young people in western countries often feel that the system is something you can be very critical of without this having any consequences. They will often have heard their parents criticizing the administration and politics in general. Besides that, youngsters feel that ‘the system is simply there, like a fact of life. No matter what you do, it will just bounce back and resume its course. Maybe that is the way their parents feel about it too. The idea seems to be that ‘We just have laws, rights and freedom, they cannot be taken from us’. And: ‘politics is boring; no need to vote, things don’t change anyway’.
But Snyder warns us that if we forfeit the state we in fact lose the rule of law. And that is also why historical awareness is so important. Apart from this, we also need historical imagination to help us picture what the future could look like. This may be very different from what we expect. The liberals and social democrats really believed that there was no other way than their way. This proved to be a huge mistake: now we are confronted with Brexit and the Trump administration. Who would have believed you if you had told them a year ago that The British would really leave the European Union and that Russians would successfully influence the outcome of the presidential elections?