Education has an important part in any society. Either something to be provided for the benefit of the working class or something to be withheld for the benefit of the ruling class.
This has always been the case – from the medieval societies of Europe in 1100’s to the medieval societies of the Muslim world in 2014. Keep ’em dumb, keep ’em down. Some might even say that the same philosophy applies in the ring suburbs of Perth – too much knowledge in Armadale or Medina or Koondoola can only be a bad thing…
Well, the re-enactment societies I have seen do not subscribe to this belief. They have all had some emphasis on education for the public – and education that might be delivered with a fake sword fight or a line of old fat guys firing muskets up in the air, but something from the past delivered up now. Whether the public is capable of making anything of it is another thing, but at least the re-enactors can say that they try.
Public festivals are often predicated upon a historic event – someone formed up the troops, landed, or conquered, or declared, and then broke for lunch and liquor. Good enough for most of the populace – they can manage this as well, and if they can ascribe it to heritage rather than hunger it makes it all seem cultural. The re-enactors aid this – last month a group of medieval re-enactors went to a fake Elizabethan pub in the Perth hills for St. George’s Day. I was not there – a car show interfering with my otherwise happy taste for fake Elizabethan pubs – but I am confident that the club did a good job of fake sword fighting and genuine eating and drinking. I’ll bet that the bar was crowded too, what with the British emigrant population that lives in nearby suburbs. Let us charitably assume that there was but one thought in the bar – the holiness of St. George.
Or we could admit that’s a crock. The one thought was beer. Possibly the medieval club introduced another thought of historical mayhem, but it probably faded quickly. You see, the public never does get educated. They love the bang of muskets and the clang of swords and the chance to make foolish remarks to the re-enactors, but they would be hard pressed to remember January 2014, much less January 1066. The idea of education is just an excuse to do what the re-enactors love to do – dress up and play act.
I am just the same. I dress up in Victorian garb, take ” historical ” pictures and mount little exhibitions that no-one attends. This blog is the closest I can get to honesty with myself about it. The chief comfort is the fact that it is a harmless pursuit, and keeps my mind sharp enough to drive a car and feed myself without incurring fork scars on my nose.