Children don’t heed the life experiences of their parents, and nations ignore history. Bad lessons always have to be learned anew.”
*१: Nothing falls outside the boundaries of history or appears within it randomly and without having been invoked
Nothing is bypassed, expelled or set apart from history. Nothing emerges out of vacuum, appears uncalled for, comes from thin air. Nothing is fundamentally an anomaly, something utterly alien to humanity, something effectively unimaginable. In history, nothing shows up just like that, by sheer accident, against all ods. History is consistent – what appears on the scene, appears exactly at the time it has been allowed to. Had it not appeared at this moment, it would not appear at any other moment at all. Had it appeared at any other moment, it would not appear at this moment.
२: Nothing is pure, unmixed, uninfluenced, wholly of itself, wholly defined by itself and wholly contained in itself
There are no pure races, nations, species, languages, biographies, doctrines, works of art etc. ( consider Indo-European languages, India, American people, world music, King James Bible, dogs… Beyoncé Knowles! ). Everything is a combination, a mixture, a hotchpotch, a dispersion, a descent with modification. One could almost talk about some kind of ”law of derivation” being at work anywhere or one could even say ”everyone is mestizo” and ”everything is a remix”.
३: Life was always hard, in every epoch, at every latitude – even kings were short-lived victims of their power
At no point of time was there a shortage of hardship, exploitation and insecurity. At no point of time was there a long and stable period of peace and equality. This fact was famously illustrated by Karl Marx: ”The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another.” Yet, on the other hand, end of the struggles could mean end of the history itself.
४: Nothing is entirely new or tracelessly original, no one is demonstratively independent or ‘self-made’, and the future will not be a total replacement of the present, divorced from its precursors in the past
Perhaps volumes could be written in connection with this so I will rather get back to this point in the future through a dedicated post. I would like to mention, however, that many discoveries were arrived at independently by different persons in different countries althought at a similar time and it’s often controversial to judge who was the first ( cases: pythagorean theorem, television, atomism, writing systems and civilization itself ). One might have the impression that these discoveries would sooner or later, one way or another, by work of this man or that man, be brought into the light of reality.
५: We have a tendency to highly idealize our past, forgetting how many advances are indeed quite recent and how many of them, that we now take for granted, were absent for most of the recorded history
Liberalism? 17th century. Trade unions? 18th century. Women’s suffrage? 19th century. Universal Declaration of Human Rigts? 1948. Mobile phone? 1983. Google? 1998. Same-sex marriage? 2001. Oculus Rift? 2016. We seldom realize just in how fortunate times we are currently living…
६: We were always poor in making predictions about the future – the record of our failures, in this regard, speaks for itself
७: Social progress is not based on tradition but rather on testing and experimenting with ideas, these often happen to be conflicted with tradition
Often, social progress is made against prevailing power structures and despite their opposing pacifying influence – by vigorous, critically-minded anti-traditionalists. By the way, isn’t Christianity relatively harmless nowadays mostly because it has gone through the process of reformation and liberalization? By contrast, isn’t Islam still relatively aggresive ( at least potentially ) because it had not, by and large, undergone such processes?
८: Technological innovation is one of the main driving forces of change and its consequences were always beyond the grasp of our imagination
Think about fire, printing press, gunpowder, dynamite, X-rays, light bulb, laser… Brilliantly summarized by William James – ”All our scientific and philosophic ideals are altars to unknown gods.”
९: Archaic societies are prematurely regarded as forgotten yet glittering examples of deep ecology, healthy lifestyles and long-lasting peacefulness, it turns out after all
There is a whole hidden story concerning the impact on environment done by Native Americans ( like forest burnings ). In addition, some popular sayings attributed to certain representatives of indigenous peoples of the Americas turned out to be fabrications ( Chief Seatlle ). Similarly, it has been shown that probably neither Minoans nor Harappians were actually living in enduring peace. The same applies to most, if not all, tribes of Oceania. These findings were quite surprising and a little shocking to me. What it shows is that these people could learn from us just as much as we could learn from them and we should not look upon them as role models to imitate or authorities to have precedence over us. We do not have to bow in shame before them for they were ignorant and unwise in their own measure, in their own manner.
Links ( if you are interested ):
१०: Men of the past were as much resourceful and skillful as we are today, especially considering what limited tools, means of communication and institutions they had access to in comparison to us
Did you know that ancient people were familiar with concrete, trepanning, plastic surgery, steam turbine, automatons, multi-storey buildings, birth control, cannabis, heliocentric theory and many more similarly modern-sounding advances? Did you know that Pyramid of Cheops was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years ( from ~ 2500 BC to ~ 1300 CE )? It seems these people simply did what they could with what they had. THEY WERE NOT STUPID.
*Instead of using roman numerals, I used indian devanāgarī numerals, for fun and as a kind of a little protest against roman numerals which are used too often ( in my estimation ).