In the 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’s story “The Time Machine”, the action is bracketed on both ends by scenes in H.G. Wells’ Victorian drawing room. It’s a gathering of men and women (okay, just men, except Mrs. Watchett, the housekeeper), all with thick beards and/or mustaches, except for Rod Taylor’s H.G. Wells character. They pontificate about art and history and science, including a lovely lesson about the four dimensions – height, width, breadth and time. In the course of these discussions it becomes clear that no one, except maybe Wells, knows what the hell he’s talking about.
Look around you today. We’re living in Victorian Times all over again. Twitter and Tumblrs and whatever else have replaced the drawing room and the discussion, gratefully, is more (if not completely) gender balanced. But we all have an opinion, or two or fifty, about everything. Everyone literally carries around a supercomputer in their pockets in the form of cell phones. We have access to more knowledge in less time than ever before and the ability to immediately post for all the world the level to which we abuse that gift.
A quick review of whatever social media you choose will show that an awful lot of us say a ton of things about a wide-range of topics we know very little about. Just because there’s a lot of good information out there, doesn’t mean we do all that great at processing it.
Another similarity to that Victorian drawing room? Whisky. We still love our alcohol. Specialty Scotches and home beer brewing are bigger than ever.
And then there’s the facial hair. Look around these days, there are a lot of really hairy monkeys around. Everyone is growing a beard now. Your best friend. Your dog. Hell, my four-year-old has a hell of a five o’clock shadow. I’m even growing a crappy beard, the only saving grace of which is that I’m aware it’s crappy. Deciding to grow a beard is like deciding to go shirtless. Most of the time, the person who is the least desirable one to do so is the one who does. Again, we, as a collective culture, know lots of stuff. We just don’t use that information very well.
For the record, those dudes in H.G. Wells’ drawing room all had kickass facial hair. Except for Rod Taylor, who, evidently, shaved his off and glued it to his chest. (Feast your eyes, ladies.) They also wore tailored suits and would put up with no shenanigans. Had he been around, “grumpy cat” wouldn’t have caused a single one of these badasses to crack a smile.
So what have we learned?
Those guys back in the Victorian era didn’t know anymore than we did; maybe even knew less. But they didn’t take crap from anybody.
Today, with entire social media sites dedicated to whining about this and that, we are clearly a society of wussy, bearded wannabes.
I was gonna say something else, but that pretty well sums it up.