For this first episode of 2023, I read a handful of voices from those living in Europe and the United States between 1900 and 1914. Rephrased only slightly, nearly all of their concerns feel like they could appear in the news or on the street today:
- There’s worry over the spread of new technology and how it perhaps cheapens everyday life
- There’s deep paranoia over changes in previously stable gender roles
- There’s a desperate need to find a grand solution to all of our problems—in this case, in the embrace of eugenics
- And there is, on the one hand, an immense faith that “progress” of all kinds will wipe away things like poverty, war, or religion; while, on the other hand, there is such an overriding feeling of powerlessness in the face of science, culture, and rapid change, that many feared the collapse of civilization altogether
I read these voices here to suggest that the feelings of emergency, then and now, are perhaps misplaced. What is actually going on, alongside all the dread? What can we learn from these voices that sound so much like our own, and what will people look back on 2023 learn for themselves?
Each of these quotations can be found in Philipp Blom’s wonderful book, The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914.
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3 Comments Add yours
I don’t know why exactly but I want to share this PDF of a story by Jack Kirby. Jack Kirby was the creator of the Marvel Universe, in other words, the X Men, the Fantastic Four, etc. All of that.
This was the only autobiographical story he ever did, an 8 page story about being a youth who always had to fight, on the Lower East Side of NYC in the 1930s.
It’s called Street Code, and it’s here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/pnyygyecbhyggeo/StreetCode.pdf?dl=0
It’s not even relevant to the episode; it’s 20 years too late, but something about the battle for existence in this simple story feels like a battle we are always fighting, and think that was Kirby’s genius.
Anyway, thanks again.
This episode was absolutely marvelous. I am dying to listen to it again already.
Thanks for listening, Tom. The book all the quotes come from is quite a ride, if you want a million more quotes to add to it.