I admit, at about ten minutes to midnight on the last night of the last decade, I had a rush of unexpected excitement when someone mentioned the roaring Twenties – an era I identify with unleased decadence, technological change, the glories (not the horrors) of the Weimar Republic and a kind of naïve blind hip-jiggling hope.
It got me thinking about numbers, and the hypothesis that has been bubbling up in my brain about how possibly historical events (or like-events) might repeat at various times within each decade – A kind of unconscious bias that influences the political zeitgeist as it unfolds.
For example flipping over into a new decade with a nought definitely feels more hopeful than ending with a nine. Call me superstitious, or simply primitive (hey, we are just over-engineered primates with an embedded God gene chip –the go-to spiritual get-out clause) but I believe numbers have symbolic power. Just ask any mathematician about Prime numbers and they start gushing like a sex addict over his favourite porn star.
With this in mind I looked at 1820 and 1920 thinking perhaps the events of those years might indicate what our new Roaring Twenties might bring.
1820: First up the Russian discovered the Antarctic on 27th of January, two days Mad King George the third died (perhaps out of pique it wasn’t the English) and George the 4th took the throne. Interestingly this George only reined ten years before dying himself (arguably to overeating), to bequeath the throne to his niece Victoria by tragic default (his daughter Caroline having died in childbirth earlier). Thus ushering in the best of British colonialism as well as it’s most unforgettable queen. Is this sounding familiar? There was also the Cato St Conspiracy – a motley bunch of of revolutionaries who plotted to kill the PM to kick-start an uprising…Very modern…Not so modern was the fact that their execution lead to the last official decapitation in the UK (very French somehow). FYI – the last person to be guillotined in France was in 1977!
May the 11th saw HMS Beagle sail off into the sunset, with a very young Darwin on board thus planting a seed that will transform the face of evolution. Regents Canal is opened on the 1st of August thus over in the US the tomato is publically eaten and declared non-poisonous.
1920 was far far more exciting. People had a lot to forget and to suddenly feel hopeful about; the 1st World war was well over, people had an huge dose of the fragility of life with 40 million perishing globally to the Great Flu in 1918, 1919 and those who did survived were up for one hell of a party. Skirts were shooting up to the knees; Jazz was on the radio, and the summer Olympics were on in Belgium with the emphasis on post-war reconciliation. Prohibition was introduced in the US (making that cocktail so much more sexier). Joan of Arc was declared a saint. The Irish Home Rule Act is passed in British Parliament creating partition, only for the Anglo-Irish war to go on for another year. Eugene O’Neill wins the Pulitzer and the sending of small children via the US Post is banned (I kid you not). The party raged on for a good nine years until everyone woke up in bed with a Wall Street Crash and the hung-over of the century. It was all happening, which frankly as I write this only a few days into 2020, feels eerily familiar …or does it? Narrative and pattern making/recognition is the way us humans try and make sense of what is often chaotic and unpredictable. Trust me, I have the app or alternatively don’t trust me I have the app.
Back to the symbolism of numbers – 2020 reduces down to four. According to western numerology Four represents teamwork, pragmatism and conscientiousness, connection of the mind-body-spiritual with the physical world of structure and organisation. Very Captain Kirk – who is not, unfortunately, yet the President of the United States. Happy New Roaring Twenties from one highly superstitious over-engineered primate!