The mind wanders through history, like a nomad in search of answers. This morning it wandered to 1917 - perhaps because, a century later, I would turn fifty. There I found the disdain of workers and peasants for the Tsarist regime, their eternal oppressors who soon would be no more. World War I raged, millions had fallen, and more were being sent to the front unarmed, in hopes they could find weapons to defend themselves on the corpses of their fallen colleagues. Workers took up arms in St. Petersburg and within months, for the first time in history, communism left the the realm of ideas and became a state whose existence threatened social hierarchies and private ownership. Grandfather and grandmother were so frightened by it - the revolution was not to be bound by the state, rather it should transcend borders to workers everywhere - that they bought the words of a demagogue who promised them deliverance from this Red Peril. No matter that his writings demonstrated he was an anarchist. He promised order and they swallowed the lie. His name was Adolf Hitler, and he rode the wave of counter-reactions, which became as senselessly violent as the Russian revolution.
The mind wanders to 2017. Millions feel oppressed by globalism and the perception of a capitalist elite that is sucking the world of its resources. People wish to overthrow the existing order, but this time using democracy as a tool. If it doesn't work will they turn to violence? They have been incited by today's demagogues, who have no ideologies and no plans, rather are narcissists who are the product of an era of individualism. They borrow sound bytes from history and the age-old trick of inventing scapegoats that provoke the worst instincts in human nature. The sole desire of such narcissists is to ride the crest of the wave. They have no idea what they will do when it crashes to the shore. Yet people swallow, just as grandfather and grandmother swallowed, because a war rages. It too threatens with a global takeover in the form of a Caliphate, and appears already to have crept over our borders through the many fleeing for their lives; or so the argument goes.
The wandering mind struggles with the mismatches in these historical scenes. They are the same, but not the same - like a blurred reflection. Soon it tires of this task and instead basks in the promise of technology at a seminar on the same afternoon. These have been tough years, but there are always many projects - so many of them, that together they will propel us past this moment that likens our ugly history. I do hope so, because I am a mother. Yet the mind cannot but keep wandering in pursuit of patterns and explanations.
A book I have just read concludes with a line which, despite its other disturbing messages, makes me feel that the wanderer is not lost: "Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?" (John Gray, "Straw Dogs"). What if more of us grasped this aim? Perhaps the wanderer would find a period of history sometime in the future that likened no other.