Friday, January 08, 2010

plus ca change plus ca change

As we get older it sometimes seems, as the French say, "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose:" the more things change, the more they stay the same. But sometimes we are reminded that things change faster than we care to admit. Two recent experiences highlighted this for me.

First, I decided to watch "The Candidate," a 1974 or so Robert Redford movie, together with my politically addicted son. He noticed the politics and campaign strategy. I noticed the large American cars, the cigarettes, and the fact that everyone--including or perhaps especially the "liberal" politicians--completely ignored anything that women said on any subject. Was this only 35 years ago, and did this really seem normative to us so recently?

The second occurred when I spellchecked a short article I was writing on electoral reform. The spellchecker, which can't be more than ten years old, rejected the words "Barack," "Obama," and "Palin" outright; rendered "cellphone" as "cellophane"; and insisted that "youtube" consisted of two separate words. Did we really do without this things, and how then did we survive?

Maybe things just seem to stay the same because we read back the present into the past. My kids have this delightful way of beginning sentences with phrases like "in the old days, you know, around 2005." Perhaps they know more than we think they do.


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