First, whilst sitting in the doctor's waiting room, flicking through Country Life and dreaming of a small lottery win, I found this very beautiful picture of St Ursula on her death bed.
I know it's a bit of a maudlin subject, but I was struck by the soft beauty of the room and the quiet gentleness of the whole scene. When I'm on my death bed, let it be in such a room with me safe in the knowledge that I have lived a dutiful and holy life. So far things aren't looking as though that will come true - either the beauty of the room or my living a dutiful and holy life. When I die, I imagine I will be surrounded by snotty tissues and old copies of Good Housekeeping, on the floor will be that stain where I dropped my hair die (I've got grey hairs now, gentle reader) and its in such an awkward position it won't be covered by a rug...and saint I ain't.
Now, here's a great article by John Millbank, it's a good easy read and beautifully expresses my thoughts on why modern life is rubbish. Highly recommended reading. There's an extract below for those who are as pushed for time today as yours truly.
Moreover, it is only a smugly metropolitan bourgeois perspective that can imagine that "unending domestic drudgery" has vanished (for single-parent families, for instance), along with bullying, snobbery, poor education and bigotry - which generally mutate.
To symbolically split the difference I would venture, as a parent, that while things are now fortunately on the whole better for girls, they are often worse for boys - and not as good for either sex as they so easily could be.
The current rate of male adolescent depression suggests that boys are indeed the victims of an excessively indoor and two-dimensional culture, and of an incredibly conformist and sedentary educational curriculum. Indeed, both boys and girls suffer from a teaching-process that delivers neither very much knowledge, nor encourages their creative imaginations. By contrast, the 1950s and 60s in retrospect appear as a short epoch where a balance was achieved between these two requisites - especially in state primary schools.
These debates about the past matter, because they slant the current perspectives of the left. A revived scientism tricks it into imagining that increased hygiene and anaesthetics is a sign of "progress" in general. The same goes for the variety of entertainment, largely a by-product of technological advance.
But while these things should not be derogated, there is a real sense in which they are trivial, and either neutral or actually detrimental to participatory freedom if they subordinate human action and interaction to automatic processes.
As to the advent of greater tolerance, freedom of choice and social fluidity, then we should be able to celebrate such things, while also counting their cost in terms of the loss of solidarity. Here, again, the debates about the past tend to slant our sense of possibility in the present, because too often they present a necessary either/or which precludes us from considering a possible both/and.
If the cost has been counted, then perhaps people may now more freely choose the advantages of rootedness, tradition, conservation, faithful commitment and fascinated attention to the common and repeated as more likely to hold their long term interest.
Anyway, I hope that has whetted your appetite. Anon, goode huswifes!