The great events of history are within touching distance of the modern dayPosted on August 8, 2011
The stated topic of this blog is politics, but I reserve the right to stray off into other interesting areas from time to time. This is one of those times.
In one of these pleasingly highbrow moments which proves that the internet is not just about videos of cats and moon-walking budgies, a clip has gone viral on Twitter today showing a 1956 TV appearance of the last surviving eye witness of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination:
By that time the man in question was 96, an impressive achievement for a lifelong pipesmoker born in the mid-19th Century.
The video itself is an interesting historical curio, but the message it carries is even more interesting. We tend to think of history as being distant – particularly that history which is not recorded in colour or even in film or sound. In reality, though, it’s remarkably close.
I’m told that as a small child I met a lady in her 90s who had when a small child herself met someone whose father fought at the Battle of Waterloo. That’s three degrees of separation between me in the 21st century and a British soldier in 1815. Similarly there must be quite a number of people still living who met the gentleman in the Lincoln video.
Taking the social theory of everyone in the world being at most six degrees of separation from one another, and flipping it into time rather than geography, it’s easy to see that these events which seem so far away and long ago are actually almost within touching distance.