Print Edition: January 11, 2012
I realize New Years is a distant memory, but I doubt many of you out there have fully adjusted to the fact that we now live in a year which requires a two at the beginning and end of its cardinal notation. This is perhaps not significant in itself, it happened before in 2002, but it is a general symptom of the human need to break time up, to quantify it, and thereby make us all a tad paranoid about our own mortality. Alternately, the idea of picking a semi-arbitrary date to separate two quantities of time seems to imply that there isn’t much point getting attached to a specific year anyway, unless you like a sense of perpetual, annual loss. What really matters about a year is not the number of digits it employs to differentiate itself from the all the other years in the chronology, but the events which will (hopefully) perpetuate its memory in the public psyche.
This creates a problem for years, such as 2012, which have yet to manifest memorable events. For what monument, besides the imminent Russell Brand/Katy Perry fireworks, can we use to define this annum in which we stand? Obviously, we should embrace another human idiosyncrasy—the idea that years separated by various multiples of 10 share spiritual or situational kinship—and harken back to the events of glorious 1912 as a prophetic vision of the coming 12 months.
First and foremost, 1912 was the year the Titanic sank (seriously, I’m not making this up). While one could make a lot of clever analogies to things like the economy, the Canadian Health Care System, Katy Perry’s bank account, and perhaps North Korea, these analogies would be nothing more than romantic thinking. After all, with fortitude and perseverance humanity was able to push through the disastrous shipwreck and keep progressing for two whole years until 2014 (I’m sorry, I meant 1914) and the start of the First World War.
No romantic thinking there, I hope.
1912 was also the year the British reached the South Pole, only to discover that the Norwegians had already beaten them to it. I’m having trouble anticipating a parallel to this event because, frankly, I can’t remember anything notable being done by a Norwegian since 1945. I faintly recall the establishment of the Norwegian “black metal” genre in the 1980s as being fairly notable, more-so since reading the Wikipedia entry which claims that many of its pioneers were “linked with church burnings and murder” and also “neo-Nazism,” but I suspect I’m just displaying my ignorance of the many cultural, social and theological Norwegian accomplishments which do not involve channeling evil spirits through a guitar amp.
On a more sober note, 1912 marked the invention of the drug ecstasy in Germany, a dubious achievement which has already left its mark on Abbotsford this year. It heralded the First Balkan War as a taste of the violence which would explode in Europe two years later, and it oversaw the destruction of the Qing Dynasty in China after 2000 years of Imperial rule. US Marines landed in both Cuba and Nicaragua in 1912, and Alan Turing, the mathematical genius responsible for breaking the Reich’s naval Enigma code during World War II, was born to minor gentry in Paddington, London.
I think the point of this, besides indulging the History Minor in me, is to propose that a man or woman, standing upon the threshold of the new year in 1911 could not possibly have anticipated the myriad of events which would create the tapestry of 1912. I further propose that, with some significant exceptions, it would be hard for such an individual to even identify the events which would, in hindsight, be seen as having significant historical importance. As a race we tend to stumble from slightly arbitrary period of time to slightly arbitrary period of time, pulling the wings from hurricane-laden butterflies and poking our fingers into the eye of the Fates.
But go on! Live! It’s a new dawn and a new year, and few people have had much success trying to predict the future from the past anyway. But if the US does happen to invade Cuba in the near future…
Then I’d stay off ocean liners. Period.