Won't somebody please think of the children?
What we leave our posterity defines us as a civilisation
A few years ago, while on holiday in the south of France – I appreciate I immediately ruin any populist credentials in mentioning this – my wife’s family, including all her siblings and her parents, spent a long evening talking about her grandmother. Her foibles, her catchphrases. This went long into the night, with impressions and much laughter and even tears.
This was ten or twelve years after she had died. I had only briefly met her towards the end of her life, but there was something I found so touching and inspiring about this scene. As parents who’ve seen the charming children’s film Coco will know, some cultures believe that, so long as someone is loved, commemorated and talked about by loved ones, they aren’t truly dead.
At our funerals, it is normally these personal relationships that people talk about; their grandmother or dad or sister or uncle, or just their friend. They rarely mention their jobs, unless they were Nobel Prize winners or part of a trade with a strong sense of identity. They certainly won’t mention any of the things that people think defines them on social media: their race or sexuality, their political identification or even disability status.
For most people their job traditionally gave them dignity and their family gave them meaning. Both of these two great functions have suffered a certain decline in recent decades, for a variety of reasons of which both Right and Left share the blame, but it is the latter that matters more in the greater scheme of things.