When one thinks of the word ‘Inheritance,’ the image which instantly springs to mind is usually financial. From an eccentric great aunt Maud (I’ve never actually met anyone with a Great Aunt Maud, but it is so on my bucket list), to parents careful saving, much of the discussion around inheritance looks at money, tax, the burden of wealth, and the legacy of a family.
The origin of the word comes from Late Middle English, where is was sometimes referred to as ‘enheritance.’ This in turn was an evolution from the Anglo-Norman French ‘enheritaunce,’ which translated roughly as ‘being admitted as heir,’ from the Old French ‘enheriter.’
So what is the point of me giving you a vocabulary lesson on the etymological significance of ‘Inheritance?’ Mostly to highlight the fact that the word, and the concept, is really really old. It has a rich and layered history which we can track and analyse through the years.
Know what else is really old?
And this is the inheritance I am concerned with. The legacy we are leaving behind. The huge amounts of pollution, deforestation, overfishing, extinction of entire species. There is only one black rhino left in the entire world, and he is guarded day and night to prevent the poachers from getting him.
And that is heartbreaking.
We are in the process of creating a divided society, where misconceptions are made about each other before we even open our mouths, based on our clothing, accents, skin colour or religion. Brexit has ensured that we leave behind a story of isolation and otherness. A legacy in which the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. A world in which it is ok to pay bankers six figures and let nurses use food banks.
Our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren (you see my point) will inherit a world with no Asian elephants, no sea otters, no snow leopards, no giant pandas, no blue whales…all creatures which have entered the endangered list in 2017 alone.
It is a heartbreaking legacy. An unwanted inheritance.
Inheritance. “Receive…as an heir at the death of a previous owner.” “Receive or be left with (a situation, object etc.) from a predecessor or former owner.”
What are we leaving behind?
Is it an inheritance worth inheriting?
We still have time to change this. But, like sand which trickles damningly through a timer, we are fast running out.
Peace and stuff
This post is a response to the Daily Post Prompt Inheritance