Tuesday, July 14, 2009

20 year hindsight

I picked up copy of Time magazine today. It was a June summer issue and it was doing the year 1989 and how that one year has shaped how the world has changed. My initial thought was "Seriously?" I lived through 1989 and all I remember about it was being concerned about running track meets and trying to win them despite being injured.

But being a self-absorbed teenager meant things happening to me were more important that what was going on in the world. Of course, I had vague impressions about some of the so called "life-altering" events. I stopped and thought about how my juvenile mind interpreted and coded those events.

1. Tiananmen Square
Then: I remember the picture of the guy standing in front of the tank. I remember calling it Tai-nan-men Square and incurring the wrath of Olie who saw it her place to correct me. I remember my mother telling me that the guys in the tanks were death row murderers and therefore had no qualms running over student protesters.

Now: I wonder where my mother got her facts from but she believed that of the Chinese, the invading Japanese force during the Occupation all those years ago and I suspect the Nazis. I also now know that it was a pro-democracy rally and it had started months earlier, culminating in the June crackdown and it lost China the opportunity to host the Olympics some eight years earlier. Actually I knew that last point about 10 years ago but putting two and two together took some time.

2. The Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Then: I was holidaying in Perth with my parents and my cousin. My boy crazy cousin and I were more interesting in picking up cute bell boys at the hotel than to pay attention to the fact that the Berlin Wall had come tumbling down. I recall a friend of my parents saying it was "a day for the history books" and I was like "yah yah, whatever. Let's go shopping please!"

Later on: Having studied the Cold War as part of my history syllabus in college, the significance of it became very clear to me and it wasn't the beginning but the very end of a long row of political dominoes that began when Gorbachev realised the Soviet Union was too broke to maintain a Soviet empire.

Now: My history tutor then remarked that I had an eye for the ridiculous and absurd and once again he was proved correct. Reading all these accounts of what were world shaping events, what stood out for me about the account of the fall of the Berlin Wall was that the writer got falling grit from the wall into his eye and it knocked out his contact lenses. My immediate thought was whether his cornea was scratched in the process. Not something to be deliberating when reading about the last bastion of communism turning into a pile of rock.

There were others but I would be lying if I said I knew any of the rest in any sort of detail 20 years ago. I think I'd heard about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge and Vietnam but possibly the latter because my brothers watched Tour of Duty, the television show and I liked the intro credits played to The Rolling Stones. And I think I wondered if Cambodia and Kampuchea (you'd know it if you played RISK) were the same countries.

Today, I know a little bit more about Vietnam, primarily because I'm a fan of pho and summer rolls as well as because one of my best friends is shacking up in Saigon at the moment. Cambodia? I know that I shared a history class with Sihanouk's grand daughter in university, it is home to Ang Kor Watt and Tomb Raider was shot there. And before some starts making seriously disapproving noises, I do know about Pol Pot and the Killing Fields. But all this was recent knowledge acquisition and not something I'd learnt in school from a text book.

So it leads me to question, how did I get from being what Packrat terms a "jockette" whose only focus in life was to break track records to someone who realised putting two and two together isn't that big a challenge when I decide to put all the absurdity out of focus? Someone once said I was smart. Erm, nope. I don't think so. Mix with some of the dudes I hang with and you'll feel dumb as a door post.

Maybe it's just hindsight. That makes things fall into place. They say hindsight's 20/20. Well, 20 years does make some difference.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 23:38

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