Calling time on Time

Time Loop, Time Freeze or Time Sink?

(the 4th revolution for 2021)

It’s coming home! It’s coming home!!! Football is coming home,… etc, etc… Yes, it probably is, and hopefully it is, bloody high time if you ask me. After all, we have only been singing this for nearly 25 years! Yes, count well: 1998 to 2021. And England is through, for the first time, in … 55 years! Imagine, the pride of Nobby Stiles in 1966, to know that he would be the first time since 1911. Yes, that 1911, before WWI. Yet we dont twitch to these references.

Its not only football (or soccer if you need the Globish translation). Across categories, topics, dimensions, media, … Time slowly froze over the past 10 years, swirling in tighter and tighter loops. We reached glaciation since the start of the Covid crisis.

Maybe it is simply age creeping up on me and our societies, or nostalgia kicking in?

Let’s look at cultural productions and creations: is it not an endless loop of reruns, reloads, remakes, covers, a mass recycling of content created in the past century.  Are we losing forward motion, and have we reached an historical entropy? Is that self-delusion or what some called the “end of history”?

How long can we recycle the past?

Reviewing the facts together

The topic is obviously possibly simply a matter of yours truly, dear readers, getting old and having a spat of “in my days”… but, looking at the swirling threads of information circling, 50 years ago is actually yesterday, or so it seems, whether online, on the radio, in movies, on TV.

Now, 50 years ago, in 1970, was another world, it was the 1920s. In 1990, ’50 years ago’ was before WWII… in 2021, it is only 1970s… apparently yesterday.

Star Trek, out of the 60s, Star Wars Episode 4, 1977, are both still going strong. Better still, count the remakes, prequels or sequels. Why re-endlessly spinning the same content? OK, we are in an aging society, so maybe this is a social wish to recreate its early years, a social feel-good factor? Fair enough. Maybe these are just too many nerdy references? OK…

So lets head to a party today.

Listen to the playlists… Really, would you imagine dancing in 1985 to the jaunty tunes from Jean Sablon, Marlene Dietrich or Noel Coward? Or Vera Lynn, Juliette Greco and Dario Moreno in a party in 1995? Well, no one blinks when a Gen Z party blares out Get Around by the Beach Boys, Boney M or Abba. No-one bats an eye, no Gen X, Y or Boomer, not Gen Z…

Playing the Spice Girls would be like having a Beatles house party in the mid 80s… Possible, but let’s be honest, rare… very rare outside of costume parties. Similarly, raves, whether hardcore or not, are 25 years old…

Our relation to the past has changed: what it means today is not what it meant yesterday.

This means for us individually a change in our own self-awareness as much as we picture our society. Our own and collective arrow of time has evolved.

This relationship to the past, how we conceive past, present and future is an essential underlying element of any culture. Precisely, both how we SEE it as much as how we position ourselves in it? We each have our own references and key moments, but we also have a different feel for length of time.

What does it mean?

Fukuyama was visionary when he said that history was ending. Without an arc, without a vision and direction, what used to be linear, a direction and vector, becomes circular, a loop and circle. Linear history defined today by opposition to yesterday and tomorrow, defining and building progress and future. In a loop, without a sense of motion, we simply return to the Middle Ages and the “eternal” set order of things. Gone the Renaissance. Who sets, how and why this order is not defined: this will become the next challenge.

The very idea of a future slowed to a forward crawl.

The fact that technology allows us to not only store, but also re-process, re-invent souvenirs, making them better, sharper, faster, more accessible, etc… technology allows us to recreate a perfect past. We certainly do. Creation, invention becomes unnecessary as we can nearly endlessly improve the past first.

Unfair enough, a handful of time references are used more and more, butterfly collections pinned forever, endlessly spun into narratives. We get stuck in a mantra on a praying wheel, but instead of spinning new history, we recycle ideas. The mid-20th century (1940-1960) seems to have taken a life on its own, a time tumor, before which was “the past”, after which is “now”.

Where to?

The current scientific debate is still trying to sort out the debate between linear and circular time: so there no answer to find there, or in philosophy.  Indeed, both a looping time as much as a linear, mono-directional timeline are logical consequences; both are measurable in physical reality as much as in physics theory.

Yet both are also clearly mutually exclusive. So, while it could not possibly be the case, time is both circular and linear.

I believe that individuals, societies, we all still have something to say, to do, to build; we cant just escape our atmosphere to the Moon or Mars. Nor can we simply systematically turn to the past, and try and reinvent it.

These are the two current alternatives we are offered: escape our atmosphere or our present.

Beyond the souvenirs, we have to rediscover where we want to go, as individuals, societies as much as species.

We could hope for the wisdom of the Time Lords, but as they seem to be only existing in TV fiction, the logical starting point seem to understand where to position ourselves individually, then collectively, in these new timelines, overcoming the lazy “ in my time” mode. By fixing this where, we will know when and reset our history line.

Oh, and one last word, I myself always prefered “Vindaloo” to “3 Lions” as it sounds actually much more Engrish, but what do I know.

These are as far away from today, than these were in 1991 (official UK charts) (official French charts)
Beatles “Strawberry Fields” Benny Goodman – Sing, Sing Sylva – Les Roses blanches
Star Wars Ep 4 Francis Craig – Near you Bourvil – A bicyclette
Boney M “Rasputin” Dinah Shore – Buttons Line Renaud – Ma cabane
M Sardou “Connemara” Johnny Ray – Cry Edith Piaf – Padam
Prince “When a Dove cries” Chordettes – Mr Sandman Brassens – Les sabots
“3 Lions”-Its coming home Beatles – hey Jude Tom Jones – Delilah

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