Hell in a handcart


We were burgled last weekend. Not a massive disaster, but unsettling none the less. 

As I hacked back the plant to reveal an old burglar alarm box, and then drove to the badlands of London to recycle the clippings; I was sent, en route, to buy a replacement Xbox at Argos, in order to cheer up the kids.

It set me thinking. What kind of a society do we live in, when someone is prepared to risk incarceration to nick our old out-of-date Xbox 360? Who is desperate enough to give them a bundle of notes to own it? And why am I here, perpetuating this ‘circle of life’, scrabbling with everyone else for a metal and plastic electronic narcotic, which sends healthy minds to sleep…


I’m reading Neil MacGregor’s terrific book Germany: Memories of a Nation – its history seen through the prism of fascinating lives, inventions and objects. It brings together a story of what is ‘Germany’ in images and items, from the Renaissance prints of Durer to the Bauhaus-inspired gates of despair at Buchenwald, here:


Jedem das seine: “to each his due”, as the proverbial and double-edged sign reads. 

At the top is MacGregor’s picture of one of the millions of traditional handcarts, in which even more millions of displaced people carried what little they could; across fought over and destroyed lands. When the world has literally gone to “hell in a handcart” of what value are material wealth and possessions?

MacGregor’s story makes you think about, care about and better understand Germany. It’s also a reminder that acquisitiveness and retribution are the twin roads to perdition. Happiness, for people or countries, is not found in revenge or fighting for more stuff.

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