In 1917 the Russian Revolution began and in 2017 a Russian Question rumbles through American politics while a Russian Presence permeates Middle Eastern politics centred on Syria.
Also in 1917 T.E. Lawrence helped to lead the Arab Rebellion against the Ottoman Empire (6 July is centenary of Battle of Aqaba) and in 2017 the results of that rebellion continue to play out in the turmoil of Middle Eastern politics in which Saudi Arabia stirs the pot in Qatar and other places. Turkey, of course, is a key player in what is going on these days, including, today, I notice, defending the interests of Qatar against the meddling of Saudi Arabia.
Here in NZ, 1917 might be best remembered for 850 soldiers killed at Passchendaele on 20 October, the greatest loss of life in a single day in NZ's military history. Back home, in 1917 there was a Reform Party government, led by William Massey. In 2017 we have a National Party government led by Bill English - National is a successor party to the Reform Party.
We might also, to keep comparisons going, compare 1917 and the British government being in a bit of a muddle about how to bring the war in Europe to an end with 2017 and the British government being in a significant muddle about how to extricate itself from its current "war" in/with Europe.
The above paragraphs represent one way of doing history, focusing attention on the big picture, key events, and named leaders. From that perspective it is fascinating, possibly depressing to think how much 2017 looks like a rerun of 1917.
Another way of doing history is to consider ordinary people and the way their lives are lived - social history. From that perspective a number of things are wonderfully changed and life today does not look at all like it did in 2017. (The following apply to the Western world, but also in much of the rest of the world) think healthcare, standard of housing (for most, but not all), ease of producing meals, laundering clothes, moving from one place to another, communication, entertainment, access to consumer goods. Even with wars still occurring, the chances of 850 Kiwi soldiers being killed in a single day this year is almost zero. (Only "almost" because there are rogue states with worrying policies around missiles, nuclear weaponry, etc).
But the point of politics is not to proudly remind people how wonderful life is compared to 100 years ago. The point of politics is to organise society today towards better outcomes tomorrow than were experienced yesterday. From that perspective, our lot could be better. Here in NZ we are concerned about improvements which many other countries also wish for: to housing, to health, to education, and to economic well-being (both lifting individuals out of poverty and improving general circumstances of whole countries).
Our General Election on Saturday 23 September 2017 focuses our minds on whether we should change the government to secure wished for improvements or retain the current government because it is promising to fulfil those wishes.
I hope to keep a Monday series of posts on the theme of "The Politics of Jesus" going until the election, exploring the question of what Jesus' politics mean for us as a democratic people with the ability to apply Jesus' politics to our situation and our wish to see improvements.
But today I note simply that where there are politics there are politicians. And, unfortunately, a desire to see improvements to politics involves, necessarily, improvements to politicians and their ability to deliver better outcomes for people.
On that score the last week has been salutary. We have seen our media hold our key politicians to account and they have been found somewhat wanting. I salute our media (they have done their duty) and I despair of our politicians (at best they have reminded us that politicians have a remarkable ability to tell lies and lots of them).
Should any politician being reading this column, I offer these verses from yesterday's Gospel reading, and ask that you recite them to yourself everyday you are a politician:
Tell the truth, dear leaders, it is the best way to avoid one lie leading to another lie.