A fun and often useful way of getting perspective on events from what seems like the relatively recent past is to take the time interval between those events and the present, then count back an equal time into the past [1].

For example, The Beatles first big hit, Love me Do, came out 60 years ago, in 1962. Going back 60 years to 1902, the hits of that year included Scott Joplin’s ragtime number The Entertainer. The recent buzz around Get Back can be compared to the revival of interest in Joplin generated by the Newman-Redford movie The Sting[2]

A more memorable event for most who were alive at the time was the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963, that is, 59 years ago. Going back 59 years gets us to 1904, only three years after the previous US Presidential assassination, that of William McKinley. At least according to Wikipedia, the immediate reaction to the McKinley assassination was comparable to that after Kennedy’s. However, McKinley was overshadowed by his successor, Teddy Roosevelt in a way that didn’t happen with LBJ and JFK. So, AFAICT, McKinley’s assassination was pretty much forgotten by the time of Kennedy’s election[2]

As far as left politics goes, a comparable observation that the events of May 1968 are closer to the October Revolution than to the present.

Looking at intervals like this gives an idea of whether change has been fast or slow. For example, the beginning of the Jet Age of passenger jet transport is commonly dated to the introduction of the Boeing 707 in 1958, but there’s also a case for the 747 introduced in 1969. Counting back from these two dates gives a range from 1894 to 1916, neatly bracketing the Wright Brothers in 1903. The massive advances from the Wright Brothers to the early 7x7s contrast sharply with the near-stasis since then (punctuated by the failure of the Concorde). Today’s 7x7s and their Airbus competitors differ most notably in the fact that the passengers are packed in tighter, and more effectively pacified with digital entertainment. The newer planes are more fuel efficient, safer and not quite as noisy, but those are incremental advances in an industry that used to symbolise modernity and technical progress.

That’s enough from me. Anyone else have a favorite?

fn1. The first time I saw this was in a look back at at an ANU Revue, during the Vietnam years, on the theme Hits of the Blitz. The author pointed out that the Vietnam War was now further in the past than WWII had been at the time the show was put on.
fn2. Doing the same thing for The Sting (1973) takes us back to the silent era and The Thief of Baghdad
fn2. Some fans of numerology noted that the winners of the 1860, 1880, 1900 and 1960 elections had been assassinated. Adding the 1840, 1920 and 1940 winners, who died in office (though Roosevelt survived his third term, and won again in 1944), this produced the “Curse of the Zero Years”

10 thoughts on “Janus

  1. The Gallipoli Campaign was 106 years ago. Doubling that takes us back to 1809, smack bang in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars (at the time of the War of the Fifth Coalition).

    Going a lot further back, the last Pharaoh of Egypt[1] was in 30 BCE, 2051 years ago. Double that to 2081 BCE and we’re still in Ancient Egypt, roughly at the start of the Middle Kingdom.

    fn1. Depending on how you define “Pharaoh”, but any definition has a similarly surprising result.

  2. The iPhone was announced 15 years ago in January 2007.

    Just over 15 years before that, in July 1991, the first voice call on a commercial digital radio based cellphone service was made in Finland. (The service’s system was GSM, AKA 2G. “1G” was built around traditional analogue radio: power hungry–so mainly installed in cars–and not easily shared among many phones.)

    (Also, the first text message, which used the Short Message Service, a kind of afterthought in the GSM specification, was sent in December 1992.)

    30 years before 1992, the iconic (and category-defining) Sony TR-63 “shirt pocket” transistor radio was ubiquitous. Portable wireless communication, but only one way. It was a start.

  3. Today, we have failed to stop COVID-19, instead unleashing it as a dangerous, world-wide, unending pandemic. Forty years ago smallpox was officially declared eradicated. The global polio eradication effort was started in 1988 and is now largely declared successful. Earlier anti- polio campaigns eradicated polio in many countries. For example, a case in May 1986 is quoted in the literature as Australia’s last case of locally acquired wild poliovirus, though there is debate. Measles and chickenpox are now well controlled in Australia.

    Contrast this to the the abysmal failure, globally and in Australia to control COVID-19. The original wild type was not nearly as contagious the evolved Omicron variant. Early suppression was possible. Suppression has now been made much more difficult by letting COVID-19 rampage uncontrolled. It is true that SARS-CoV-2 is a very difficult virus but our virology, vaccine technology and data technology are also greatly advanced from the 1980s. These advances should have been sufficient to enable us to tackle, suppress and eradicate a more difficult contagious virus.

    What went wrong? Two words. Neoliberal capitalism. Neoliberal capitalism declared control impossible and then to prove its prediction correct, deliberately and with lack of forethought, sabotaged all control and suppression efforts. The outcome demonstrates that our advances in the sciences have been more than negated by the practices, procedures. protocols and belief systems of neoliberal capitalism. SARS-CoV-2 is not too difficult to fight, even in Omicron. Our political economy system is too weak to fight it. One could actually say neoliberal capitalism has a weak immune or self-protection system. It can’t fight challenges. It can’t prevent or fight climate change, It can’t prevent or fight bush-fires. It can’t prevent or fight COVID-19. That’s a trifecta of failures. How long do we persist with a failed system?

    I haven’t quite played the “Janus Game” by its exact rules. But I’ve followed the general spirit of it. In this case we can see that an earlier era with less tech but more community spirit and public measures did better. Neoliberal capitalism is destroying our society. By unleashing COVID-19 this system is deliberately or collaterally destroying bodies and minds (SARS-CoV-2 attacks every organ in the body including the brain). When peoples’ bodies and minds are degraded and destroyed in numbers, then inevitably society is degraded and many of its better aspects destroyed. Under neoliberal capitalism life will once again become nasty, brutish and short, for everyone except the tiny fraction of super rich. If we let this system persist, we do so at our existential peril.

  4. As it’s a Federal election year, the last time Federal Labor won office from Opposition was 2007, 15 years ago with Kevin Rudd.

    15 years before that is 1992: Paul Keating’s first year as PM (although he became PM in December 1991). It was a ‘new’ government, or at least a life extension of an old one.

    15 years before that is 1977: the year Malcolm Fraser beat Gough Whitlam for re-election. Gough took a few seats off Fraser, but the Liberal’s 1975 majority was so massive it barely made a difference. It was Gough’s last go.

  5. US/NATO vs Russia are on the brink of global apocalypse again. What goes around comes around about every twenty years or so it seems is the case for a commencement of WW3, except the one opportunity that US/NATO deliberately botched due to neoliberal greed and the interests of their MIC plutocrats around twenty years ago when swords otherwise could have been remade into ploughshares. It’s red lines of encircling nukes within minutes now; around twenty years ago, the botched chance, it need not have been the creation of Putin by Clinton; around twenty years before that it was Raygun’s star wars on the back of Carter’s mujahideen, around twenty years before that Kennedy’s Cuban fail; and near twenty years before that to start the cycle rolling was the criminal experiments show put on by Truman in Japan for Russian eyes.

    Will another twenty years be threaded together against the odds, or shall it all unravel this time?

    RAGOZIN: Alienating Russia and the western made Frankenstein monster
    https://www. intellinews.com/ragozin-alienating-russia-and-the-western-made-frankenstein-monster-231280/?source=russia

    …In 1999, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov wrote in a Kommersant op-ed: “Through its expansion and military action [he was referring to the bombing of Belgrade], Nato essentially provokes Russia into self-isolation and nurtures sieged fortress sentiments. Such a fortress would be a gift to those circles in Nato which are still seeking a justification for their mighty arsenal and military programmes”.

    Back at the time, Luzhkov formed a tandem with prime minister Yevgeny Primakov fighting for power against Yeltsin’s young nominee for president – Vladimir Putin. They were seen by Russian liberals and the West as conservative dinosaurs standing in the way of progress and further rapprochement with the West. The latter was firmly on Putin’s side in this rivalry.

    Luzhkov’s article turned out to be prophetic. As the West set itself on a collision course with Russia by expanding Nato and starting – right at the same time – to counter Russian energy projects in Europe, Putin’s Russia began moving, very slowly and gradually, towards self-isolation and authoritarian rule. Its behaviour was now dictated by the logic of a larger and far more powerful nuclear monster than Russia itself encroaching on its immediate neighbourhood.

    The vector of Russia’s development and Putin’s personal evolution as a leader was predetermined by the bad strategic choices made in Western capitals. As it deals with extremely intransigent and unpredictable Putin in 2022, the West is facing its own Frankenstein.

    The war in Ukraine is the collision moment in this confrontation. A more direct involvement of the West will open up a truly apocalyptic prospect for the whole world.

    UK and Australia conclude first AUKMIN since pandemic
    Discussions focussed on key geopolitical challenges, including concerns around the situation in Ukraine. Ministers agreed on the vital need to defend freedom in the face of Russia’s growing aggression and underpinned their steadfast solidarity with Ukraine.

    Who knows that it won’t all unravel this time just as it could have in the 80s?

    Threads (1984) “The Most Terrifying Portrayal Of Nuclear War Ever Filmed” – The Guardian

    Threads review at IMDb
    TV Movie, 1984, TV-MA, 1h 52m, IMDb RATING 8/10
    https://www. imdb.com/title/tt0090163/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    Threads review at Rotten Tomatoes
    1984, Drama, 1h 50m, 100% TOMATOMETER, 92% AUDIENCE SCORE
    https://www. rottentomatoes.com/m/threads

    Threads (1984) – Movie Review – CinemaTerror

    Threads (1984) film – edited to 5 minutes – Davidshadow12
    https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=UIhrbL28Gww

    Good-bye AUKMIN, good-bye Pine Gap, and good riddance. Say good-bye to it all while time remains to do so – pack your bugout bag, and do keep the fuel tank topped up.

  6. Let’s hope the leaders of Russia, USA and NATO still have some sense left. They can’t have a head to head hot war. It would not stay conventional for long. A proxy war with Ukraine as the West’s proxy is possible but still a very bad idea. Putin has concentrated his troops about the time when Omicron must be hitting Russia. That seems like a bad idea but dictators are notoriously foolish as they become Emeritus Dictators.

  7. One I found very interesting was on men’s formal clothing. Might have encountered in the Economist around 2000. It looked back 100 years to what men wore and it hadn’t really changed. There was a picture of Teddy Roosevelt in a suit that would be unremarkable today. But go back another hundred years and it’s like fancy dress. Powdered wig, knee high stockings, brass buckle shoes…

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