Dear Inner Circle,
Amazingly, culture seems to hold memory that has an affect long after the memory of actual events has passed. Isn’t it astonishing that children still sing, “Ring-a-ring o' roses, a pocket full of posies, a-tishoo! a-tishoo! We all fall down.” This rhyme was first published in 1881 but its origin seems to be much earlier. In the days of the Black Death or in the great plagues, it was believed that the plague could be caught through the sense of smell and so people carried rose petals in their pockets, but as soon as someone began sneezing, “we all fall down”. It is believable that this song is a living memory of the many plagues that swept Europe in the seventeenth-century. In 1665, nearly a third of London’s population was lost to the plague. That the great fire happened the next year makes me think that anyone of my age, has had a pretty lucky run. No one remembers these things yet we still sing the song.
This country began as a British prison and church attendance was essentially a punishment imposed by the establishment upon uncivilised prisoners. The early magistrates were often parsons who were rarely noted for the depth of their compassion. Rev Samuel Marsden was known to impose 500 lashes for relatively minor offences. It meant that an offender would be lashed until their back was pulp, carried away until their back healed and then returned for more. It might take five sessions before the sentence was completed. Do you think this early memory is not retained in our culture? We’ve long forgotten Marsden but when clergy are portrayed on TV, we usually see a sanctimonious character that is usually privileged and either pathetically irrelevant or viciously narrow.
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