Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s in his kiss. That is the easy one.
In the last two weeks I’ve got two people saying something like “but she says you shouldn’t believe established historical facts that everybody knows, and she doesn’t present any proof, and I think this means she is–” One said “an ideologue” and the other implied mad or perhaps Stalin. It was in the comments here, but I don’t feel like looking at it.
I’m not telling you everything you ever heard is a lie — for one I have no idea what you’ve heard — I’m telling you “How do you know?”
The things that offended people in both posts are things I have reason were not quite as advertised by modern Marxist historians and the romantic socialist novelists they believe piously. I wasn’t saying it was an outright lie, but I was saying “I have reason to believe this isn’t so.”
In this case it was the whole thing of people getting condemned to death or transportation for stealing a loaf of bread. It might (maybe) have happened in ancien regime France. In Victorian England? Oh, my sore toes. Yeah, some people — resident Aussie on FB immediately chimed in to tell me people WERE transported for stealing a loaf of bread because they were starving — might have that on their conviction record, but one of my amusements (look, pal, I don’t judge YOU) is reading and watching stuff about the underbelly of Victorian London. Yeah, people stole bread. They stole a lot of things. And those people transported for stealing bread probably had A LOT more serious things in their past, but they couldn’t be nailed for those. (Kind of like Al Capone was nailed for tax evasion.) Because — stands to reason — in a society where policing is so tight that stealing bread gets you transported, there wouldn’t be the thriving underworld of whores, pickpockets, con artists and yes outright murderers that existed then.
Of course, the person who answered here thought I was saying Victorian England was some sort of paradise (rolls eyes.)
I remember the first time I realized that the things everyone knew and the things we were taught COULD NOT LOGICALLY BE SO.
Look, I, like you, heard about how terrible the aftermath of WWI was, and how broke people were right after, and how they were moving to cities and living in tenements. It wasn’t until I was reading a book about the between the war period in England that I realized they were telling me TWO stories which couldn’t both have happened. In the part about the common folk, they were telling me how much poorer they were than before the war. In the part about the great families, they were telling me how the huge rise of the middle class and the building of suburbs had hurt them, and how the newly rich common folk no longer wanted to be servants.
That was one of those “wait a minute.” Sure I was taught both things in school, but you know you write down the bullet point for the test, and that’s it. Now I was going “Who the heck wrote these narratives and why doesn’t anyone question them?”
The truth, btw, from going to primary sources is closer to the second. And the people who wrote the narrative were the unseated noblemen, who did not like all these noveau rich but who wanted to justify their disgust by showing how it hurt the poor. (It did increase the underclass somewhat, not because of economic conditions, but because a lot of men don’t integrate well after war, and well, WWI was something special by way of trauma.)
There are tons of these when you start poking. For instance the idea that the industrial revolution was unremittingly bad for the poor/people. Looking at China and India and such places right now, all I can do is roll my eyes.
Yeah, sure, the conditions of the early industrial revolution were appalling. And yet people crowded to the cities to take these jobs. What the historians never ask themselves is “How much worse was what they were escaping from?” We know that in India and China and other recently industrialized countries.
Sure the countryside has relatively clean air and more open space, but there are still real famines, and the work was unremitting and brutal and yes, little children worked too (says the daughter of middle class in a rural community whose first “job” was weeding the onion patch at five. And I was a pampered moppet. Kids my age from farming families had what we’d call full time jobs. Factory jobs at least had a stopping time.)
The idea that the industrial revolution was awful comes from upper class historians who could see the little kids twisted by working in the mills but who never consorted closely enough with the rural poor to see the misery behind raising baah lambs and the pretty pretty flowers.
Yeah. So the past isn’t written in stone. And it’s not a conspiracy. Not precisely a conspiracy. Yeah, sure, the Marxists influenced a lot of modern history with their ideas, but that is not necessarily conspiring. They view the world a certain way and it influences how they view the past too.
I know it makes people uncomfortable to question the past, particularly when that past is enshrined not just in their history classes but in great emotive fiction (the whole thing with the loaf of bread.)
HOWEVER the past is always changing. In my own time I’ve heard the invasion of Rome be changed to “well, the immigrants just kept getting in and eventually overwhelmed Rome.” And I have seen the dark ages change into the vaguely chiaro escuro ages and the latest exploration of the period show that what caused the dark ages was the Muslim expansion cutting off trade routes. And a lot of other revisions, as things are looked at a different way.
One of them, which I know to be true from modern revolutions and studying them (modern meaning from around the eighteenth century) is that the uprisings happen not when things are at their darkest, but when they’re starting to get better; not under the horrible tyrant, but under his more liberal successor.
People REALLY have trouble with this, particularly writers. Which is why most revolutions in writing and theater are portrayed absolutely wrong.
The same wrongness goes for wars. I’m fairly convinced nowadays kids are taught wars go on until America decides to stop fighting, and then the other side also stops because they’re nice people, or something. I don’t even want to imagine what distortions that will cause in future fiction and action.
So — is my questioning of the past proof that I’m an ideologue or maaaaaad, maaaaaaad I tell you?
Are you joking?
I know I am a little… enthusiastic on libertarian ideals and that I can lose sense of proportion.
But I question history because between history and the media all of us have been sold several packs of lies.
Western civilization is dying, partly, of self-loathing. Understanding the other side of the “atrocious things our ancestors did” and that other people’s ancestors did the same or worse is the only way back to health.
And questioning what you were told — and all you know about the past you were TOLD unless you happen to have a time machine — is healthy and sane. Why would you think people studying the past have no agenda? Think of how the Sad Puppy movement is characterized on Wikipedia. Now imagine it was in the past and you didn’t know anything about it.
Trust but verify. And always try to find primary sources. The results might surprise you.
This is important because, to quote RAH “A generation that doesn’t know history has no past. And no future.” And a generation that knows wrong, distorted and tendentious history is no better off.
About the past as about the present, think for yourselves and dig.
It’s the only path to truth.