Dangerous Baggage

Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri

A Simple Way To Fight

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It seems like such a simple question. What year is it? Well, the newspapers, the BBC Microsoft, Apple and almost everyone else we come into contact with all say it is 2010. However, November 2010 falls in about 7519 in the Byzantine calendar, 5771 in the Jewish calendar, in Islam 1431… there are more.

This is of course because the majority of Western technology uses the Gregorian calendar, once you’ve been brought up with this it is very difficult to think about the centuries and millennia in any other way.

The 21st century sounds so futuristic – hell it’s only 4 years until Marty McFly hops on a hover board!

And think about the months, the names of which are etched into so many people’s heads. Sept means 7, Oct means 8, Non or Nov is 9 and Dec is 10; so why do the names of these 4 months not equate to their numbers? Well it is rather complicated to trace it all, put simply civilisation has changed things since the Roman Empire fell.

Julius Caesar and the Roman emperor Augustus give July and August their names and the origins of the other months can be traced back to Roman gods with March (after Mars, god of war) being the first Roman month – hence September being the 7th.

So what?

Well, I’m afraid this is all more complicated than just a bit of trivia or a few historical facts with no real bearing on real and current life.

In fact, this is information about history, it is relevant to anyone using a computer or living in Britain. The very grammar and language that we use every day can be traced back to one of the most famous and vast empires the world has seen. Even 2 millennia after its fall the Roman Empire can still be seen all around the Western world, its language and its technology prevail still, albeit modified.

Now

The words speak to us through the ages. The ideas have stood the test of time.

So when is now, that will be looked back upon in years to come? Now is the Age of Information, the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason.

Now is a very good starting point to look both backward and forward from. The Industrial Revolution changed almost everything and we continue to build on the work and efforts of our recent ancestors over the last 200 years. Now, we are enjoying the golden era of a technological revolution, and hopefully changing everything, again.

After the 7519 years, or 2010 years, or 1431 years how come so much only just got here so recently? Skyscrapers, the Internet, the combustion engine, penicillin and aeroplanes are only a few things that simply weren’t around more than a few hundred years ago. (In fact lets go back to basics – gas, electricity and running water in the home, light bulbs, Sellotape, Post-Its, biros and paperclips are all pretty recent too).

The advances of the last 20 years alone have been extraordinary. Perhaps reason and democracy have enabled people to lift their bowed heads and really look up at the stars in the last 200 years, in a way similar to the philosophers of Greece or China all those years ago? It plays as a stark contrast to the ever-raging war in Israel and Palestine, to the fights in Ireland, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the oppression of Iraq or the Orwellian (and frankly scary) North Korea.

Building on the wisdom, culture, language and philosophy of the ancient Greeks and technological advances of the Romans along with the adoption of many more ideas from too many cultures and civilisations to mention, the Age of Enlightenment took flight.

The technologies, democracies, police forces, health care systems and secular education are not finished yet, they need work and support and care and attention but they are already a marvel of modern civilisation.

Information

Those Britons becoming enraged with immigration policies and complaining about national identity (whatever that means), those Britons who attack Muslims in the street, those Britons who want to re-introduce the death penalty for terrorists – they are missing the point and can do little more than to fuck off.

No totalitarian regime is allowed; this is a democracy, not a Christian democracy and not an Islamic one either, but a secular one. Anyone who attempts to judge or punish based on personal beliefs or force any personal beliefs on others must be resisted, even if they were born in Britain.

The power of a free, democratic, critical, secular and fair society is immense. It is not only our right to be a part of it but our responsibility to protect our freedom and our openness for future generations.

If the Internet is akin to books – in that it gives us a medium to record more information than we can hold in our heads – then Wikipedia is equal to many libraries. It is central to the community it serves (in its case, humanity), it is organised, easily searchable and ridiculously cheap to add to and read from.

As a source of information it may turn out to be one of the most important gifts we give to the generations as yet unborn, the generations as yet uneducated.

So long as freedom of speech and information continue through an open Internet, a free press and projects like Wikipedia, they will remain the greatest weapon democracy has against tyranny, totalitarianism, terrorism, idiocy and all those driven by aggression.

It really is important that Wikipedia continues. If you want to do something good for your country, civilisation and your way of life, go and update 1 Wikipedia article a week – or write your own about a place or person you know. Or simply make a donation to keep this important machine running.

http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Support_Wikipedia/en

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Written by matthaughton

November 25, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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