December 13th, 2006

coyote Phil

Probably irrelevant

On NPR today there was a story about an American spy in occupied France during WW2, who the Germans called the "limping lady" because she had an artificial leg. They talked about the amazing and dangerous things this woman did working for the Brits during the war, and then afterwards on joining the CIA, and how the British government had only now tracked her down and was giving an award to her nearest living relative.

After all that, the commentator asked a presiding official, "And is this relevant to us today?" The official came back with some generic response, which I forget. What struck me as so weird is how normal the question "Is this relevant today?" seems to us. It's a standard question to ask at the tail end of a news story (the answer given is always "yes").

The implicit assumption is that we should deny this woman the chance to be recognized for her bravery, unless it has some special relevance to our needs today. This would have seemed foolish and self-centered sixty years ago. Yet somehow it has become the norm.