This weekend, Chuck Berry died at the age of ninety. His music was not my era but of course we all generally know who he was and have danced to his music. Without his emergence, popular music ever since would have been very different. And no matter someone is very old when they die, their loss is deeply felt by their family and friends.
I must admit, I actually had no idea he was still alive. The grand age of ninety is still quite rare even in these days of life-extending medicines and treatments. But if you think about what has happened in the world since Chuck Berry was born in 1926, the mind truly does boggle. (His own life was quite a rollercoaster too but that is another story.)
In 1926, it was less than ten years since the Great War (they didn't know it was the First World War, of course). The Wall Street Crash and the Depression had not happened. The Second World War was yet to come. To say nothing of the Cold War, the end of the Cold War and everything in between and after those. This is not the place for a massive timeline. But if we think about technology - few phones, no television, primitive radio and don't even think about computers and all they have brought to the world - we can see just a tiny bit of what has changed so dramatically in less than a century.
And yet. Once again in this last week, we are being told of catastrophic famine in African countries. The Middle East is a battleground. Russia is showing signs of aggression and empire building. Resources are very definitely not shared equally. Millions still live in relatively the same conditions as their 1926 ancestors and millions have little expectation of living anywhere near as long as Chuck Berry did.
For example, according to Oxfam:
This was the situation in 2015. I can't imagine it has changed much. Click here for the list, if you can face looking at it. It is depressing reading.
Isn't it a terrible indictment of our world that actually so little of real importance has changed in ninety years? Food, health, shelter and peace for all. Fairly fundamental requirements for a race, wouldn't you say? But precious little chance of any of them being achieved across the board in the near future. We can only guess at the state of the world in another ninety years time but humans' track record so far is appalling.
By the way, the President of the USA in 1926, Calvin Coolidge, seems to have been a tad more sensible than today's incumbent (not difficult but whatever). He wrote:
The words of a President have an enormous weight and
ought not to be used indiscriminately.
Imagine his horror at the tweetings of Trump....