Current Essays

AP, AP and Away On:2008-11-30 10:07:10

I have just discovered something utterly, utterly disquieting about this current age.

But more of that later, first you need some background in calendars and how we deal with things in the past, mainly how we deal with just how much in the past they happen to be; remember what Arnold Toynbee once said "history is just one damn thing after another" but he of course was addressing only half the story, the other and more important half involving as it does how long a time the one damn thing was after the other.

There have been various attempts at solutions to this, using such eras as the Romans' A.U.C, the Greeks' Olympiads and our own, and widely used AD, Anno Domini , or as it now cleverly, though rather disparagingly, disguises its origins by re-naming itself the Common Era (or CE) and of course its companion Before CE, BCE or more honestly BC or even more honestly Ante Christum. And there, as Shakespeare no doubt would have said, chafes the rub; because it's such a pain to deal with negative dates---dates that count down to some mid-point before counting up again; so attempts were made to come up with a system that didn't need negative dates, like the absolute zero of temperature measurement. The first of these is associated with poor old (and much maligned ) Bishop Ussher who used dead reckoning from a load of dead guys in the Bible to reckon an actual date of creation so that there would be no problems with negative dates. In fact the only problem we have with it was that the date he calculated turned out to be the middle of a Sunday in the early autumn of the year 4004 BC which had a lot of stuff happening not only in negative dates, but in what he considered non-existent ones, not that he was the only guy to go there--the Venomous Bede, the Corrosive Kepler and even  the Noxious Newton all came up with similar dates, but Ussher and the others' methods had too much of a---how should I put this?---a theological or at least theoretical component. And then, of course, things started to get much more scientific, and the date of the creation of the world was put back by several thousand million years and was made more of a process than an event and so was much less actually dateable by any means.
Then, since all people really care about when it comes to dating is ...people, Cesare Emiliani came up with Holocene Era dating. H.E. (as they call it for short) says 'Hey, since the earliest civilisations we know about started around 10,000 BC lets just add a simple 10,000 to all dates, then nothing interesting need have a negative date--well actually for the BC stuff we need to subtract the date from 10,001, but that's not too hard, and then we'll just have to hope like hell that no one discovers an earlier civilisation. Yeaaah!"
But, you see, none of this was scientific enough---Oh! No! So so we finally get to B.P.

B! P!

Now let's get one thing straight, well several things actually---this BP has nothing whatever to do with the Scouting movement, with the British petroleum industry nor does BP have anything to do with the lavatory requirements of social insects, but B. P. is instead the most scientifically arrived at way of dealing with the past.
Based on radio carbon dating BP, or Before Present dating grabs the bull by some part of its anatomy and says "Sod the fear factor of the negative, we'll have everything count down to the Present!"
1950 was the date chosen as the Present, partly because of social reasons and partly because it was before large scale atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons had screwed with the global ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 but mainly because in 1954 they happened to have a load of Oxalic Acid that someone had standardised that year. And it doesn't change! Not one little bit!

So, now comes the disquietude and the horror of it, because it means... it means that we are currently living... in the A.P.---the A.P.---the After Present and that nothing we have done since 1950 will really have happened but will remain in the future to haunt us until the present catches up with us---and who knows when that will be?

Cheerio for then
Richard Howland-Bolton

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