Did we really do that?
It’s easy to ask this question as we look back and see what terrible things happened in the past.
Not just happened – but were thought of as normal, unexceptional: what people like you and me were quite happy to countenance, if not actually do.
Well, perhaps some people sometimes felt that was a bit harsh… who knows?
But for the most part, decent folk like you and me just accepted it – that’s how it is, life goes on, why change how we do things and I’ve got quite enough to do already.
Slavery’s an obvious example of course.
I recently wrote a poem about another: the scold’s bridle, an iron helmet with a plate pressing down on the tongue, used on (what were considered to be) vociferous women – yes, almost invariably women. I was of course pleased that my poem won a prize, but my consequent revisiting the writing of it and the research stirred me up all over again, with a renewed and heightened sense of astonishment and anger.
(The poem’s on the Poetry Society Website, if you want to read it)
Did we really do that?
And what will that question be focused on, as they (‘we’) look back on us?
There are of course several strong candidates, ranging from how we’re destroying our world to the gross inequalities we tolerate, but I hope – and sometimes believe – the time will come when warfare and all that underpins it will be thus seen.
Well, bringing it back to the individual, which is where we started, here’s another example – very much more modest to be sure, but irrevocable. Something we did then that is totally inconceivable now (I choose the word with care).
This one applies just to males, for what that’s worth.
Was it worth it? At the time, society generally, the family and the parents in particular thought it was. I think of Alessandro himself wondering if the benefit outweighed the cost.
As for us, we are left shocked, asking that same old question – did we really do that?
I shed my ballast long ago
so I could fly. With loss I found
a strength and lift above all others.
I paid the price from my small purse –
two tokens for the future, spent
upon another end.
I cannot say if I regret
that which I cannot do
for I have power to move –
I’ll carry you on wings of song
high into the clouds. I’ll soar and swoop
across this world of sound
I’ll bear you up to heaven even.
Then we shall gently float
to land at last, in silence.