Twofish's Blog

August 27, 2006

Ozymandias / Pomp and Circumstance

Filed under: china, massachusetts institute of technology, Uncategorized — twofish @ 9:15 pm

One of my odder personality quirks is that I tend to listen to patriotic songs from empires long past such as British Imperial marches and songs from the Soviet era.  The reason for this is the the poem from Shelley, Oxymandias.  I happen to live in a period when China is rising, but nations rise and fall and rise again, and it’s always important to have a sense of your own mortality.  The question that every person and every nation has to realize is the impermanence of history, and after one’s time in the sun disappears, what will people remember.  That thought crosses my mind as I read about the Mars mission which China and Russia are jointly setting up for 2009.

The one march that comes in my head a lot is “Land of Hope and Glory” which is also known as Pomp and Circumstance.  This song has a lot of personal significance for me because it is the graduation march for American universities.  It also has a lot of historical resonance.  It was written at the height of British imperial power and released on the date that Cecil Rhodes died, right after the end of the Boer Wars.  When it was first played there was little sense that in a little over a decade, the British would face the horrors of Flanders Fields.

The analogous situation for the United States was the year I graduated MIT which was the year the Soviet Union collapsed with little sense that in less than a generation the United States would be in an exhausting war with a much more dangerous enemy.

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