"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Friday, 26 February 2010

Stand And Deliver

I seem to have been signing a lot of online petitions lately.

There was the Simon Singh one about reform of the libel laws (see the blog for more info and links). I did a couple via the National Secular Society about getting the pope to pay for his own visit to the UK later this year (go to the NSS website for more on those). And today I did one about the BBC's plan to axe 6 Music ( see http://www.petition.fm/petitions/6musicasiannet/1000/ and also https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/ ).

On top of that I felt I had to send Ed Balls an e-mail about him caving in to the religious lobby on the teaching of sex education.

I've signed a number of petitions over the years, and made a stand on various issues big and small, although they all seemed big at the time. Sometimes I may have had a minor effect, I don't know but I suspect I've achieved very little by my actions. Increasingly there seems more to make a stand on, maybe that's just about getting old but with that increasing age comes the feeling that it has less and less effect and to be honest the fight is going out of me on a lot of issues.

I do feel slightly better for having made a principled stand on the things I believe in but at the end of the day am I any better off? I may have the respect of a few people I know for some of the things I've done but I've got no job, no money, and a house full of CDs that now even the BBC wouldn't bother playing.

Ultimately of course nothing any of us do is of any consequence whether it be signing a petition or invading a country. A hundred years from now will there be anyone who ever knew I was alive or know anything about what I did with my life? Certainly a thousand years from now there wont be. And ten thousand years from now will anything that has happened during our lifetimes have much bearing on the people of the world going about their daily lives? Blimey that's all a bit grim isn't it?

And really isn't that the point, it's what we do while we're alive, the stands and the choices we make that are important to us not about how posterity will judge it, because very few of us will leave a lasting memorial or any kind. Beethoven will almost certainly be remembered and his music live on as long a people like music; Jane Austin's books will probably always be read, as long as people have relationships with one another. But how many Prime Ministers can you name and of those you can, what do you actually know about them? American Presidents? Roman Emperors? Bronze age chieftains? Bronze age anyone?

No, most of us will not leave a lasting legacy, I shan't even leave anything for the gene pool as I have no children (my choice and I'm happy with it). No, it's about making the most of your life as best you can, signing that petition and making that stand and doing what you believe to be right and trying to make as comfortable a life as you can for your self and your loved ones. Probably.

Suggested listening: "Merz" by Merz

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