I was not deceived by the proclamations of the end of history in the 90s, though I wished I could be.
Of course, part of the reason I wasn’t convinced was in no way rational, merely a knee jerk reaction to having been pumped chockfull of Marxism six days a week (we had school on Saturday) for most of my schooling and having learned to recognize it as not just bad cess, but bad cess that inevitably fell on its face.
In fact, my 11th grade history book was explicit about it. The last chapter was called Socialism, the perfect society and expounded on how once you got there, history would have ended, since Heglian interpretation of history specified that all the wars and struggle came SOLELY from internal contradictions in society. Once those contradictions were eliminated (one must understand here that they called it socialism because by that time already communism had a bad smell, but they actually meant that imaginary state of communism, where not just classes but all monetary transactions would have come to an end, there would be no property, and everything would be held in common, from each according to his ability and to each according to his need. It strikes me now on reading it that this is a weird way to treat envy, since envy by definition can never be satiated. Never mind. Government would then wither away and there would be no more force of need for force, and no one would covet what his neighbor had, forever. The end of history. And if you’re visualizing a vast plane of mass graves covering all the Earth, you’ve come to the only state that would achieve that.)
Applying it to the end of the cold war was particularly and strangely boneheaded since though a long struggle, it wasn’t the longest in humanity’s history, and it would be like announcing the end of the French-English rivalry that took up most of pre-modern history signified that we shall not “learn war no more.”
Of course I wanted it to be true. Not the end of history, as such — consider history is the doing of humans. The only way history ends is when humans end — but the peace. I hoped at least that we’d enter one of those halcion periods that have graced humanity now and then when there are no major struggles for a century or so.
I had small sons, and I figured it would be nice to grow old and see sons and grandchildren grow up, and if/when strife returned in a hundred years or so, it would affect my great grandkids whom I wished the best upon, but really, I’d never even meet.
Yeah… 9/11 was a rude wakening. All the more so since that struggle has been going on for centuries, just shoved to the back and accreted by the other wars. Heck, if a book I just read is correct all our itch in the middle East is the result of the Roman Empire falling, not to mention being sloppy about paying their mercenaries. Because history is like that. There are stones continually thrown forward, to disturb the clear lake of the future.
Which means we need to know history. We need to be aware of all that has gone before. People who aspire to lead the country — any country — either need to have an idea of history, or have counselors who do.
And it must not be a counterfeit, bizarre, just-so idea of history, as has been taught in our best universities for the last century at least. Obama’s apology tour was based on Marxist just-so stories, under which the West, and particularly America, were to blame for everything wrong that ever happened in the world. (Just as humans are to blame for the extinction of the T-rex according to the Colorado Springs zoo when my kids were little — hopefully they’ve taken that piece of nonsense exhibit down with all the species that have gone extinct and a mirror so the little kids could contemplate “the only species that drives others to extinction.” (which is an appalling ignorance of natural history.) — I think in the left’s minds the west and the US are to blame for neolithic struggles, before either entity existed.) He also believed those twin devils “Capitalism” and “Colonialism” were not the basic impulses of mankind, but evils, uniquely, of the west and America. So his conscious program to diminish us economically, to convince us to live with less (oh, yeah, he also fails to understand economics, because he was taught things that just ain’t so.) were done with the best intentions, and intended to lead to to peace and prosperity the world over.
Which of us wouldn’t live in more strained circumstances if that meant the end of famines in the world, or that people in Africa would have a little more. Which of us would not cut back a bit, if that meant that the Middle East would feel more at ease and cease hating us.
Except of course, that the “history” he was taught was no such thing, rather a long and convoluted farrago of nonsense, strung end on end, starting with Marx’s just-so stories, already out of date in his own time (and never IN rationality) and then paved over by various historians who wanted to explain why the working classes hadn’t risen up, and why none of the vaunted predictions of their “scientific” system had come true.
And so what we got was years of strife and struggle all over the world with fractious countries seeing the US self-diminishment as weakness and taking it as an opportunity to strike, even as the US’s economic head-cold caused the rest of the world to catch financial pneumonia.
This is why knowing history, real history — which at this point necessitates going back to books published in the nineteenth century, save for a handful of authors, some of which are only trustworthy for one subject — is vital for the survival of civilization.
It didn’t much matter what they taught rulers when each kingdom could at most attack its neighbors, but for good or ill, modern technology has linked all our fates (and economies) together and someone with power to wreck or marshal an economy or an army having the utterly wrong story in his head can destroy the whole world.
When an entire generation, and several countries have undergone this kind of brainwashing…
Mind you, it is normal for human civilizations to do this. Utterly normal. But it isn’t healthy.
Part of the reason China screwed itself into a loop of never ending stagnation was the charming habit of burning history books (and at times killing all story telling grandmothers) every so often, and substituting them with doctored history books telling a just-so story. In that way China could go on forever dreaming itself the center of the universe while once-barbarians caught up with it and then surpassed it.
Then there were the fake histories behind the iron curtains. And let’s not start talking about the history books of the Middle East.
Thing is our progressives have learned from all this, and added refinements. (The people who dreamed the strategy — I’ve been reading Judgment in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovski, so I can say “in Moscow” and if you don’t think so it’s because you haven’t read it — were brilliant strategists. The fact their followers are mostly incompetent baboons only makes it incoherent, but because of what it is, not ineffective.)
It starts with taking over the schools and making most people incompetent to read anything more complex than a bill (and even that.) Actively making people uncomfortable with reading, in fact. Then there is the indoctrination designed to catch those who somehow still manage to read for pleasure, and making them deathly afraid of reading the wrong message. There is this concept that ideas are contagious, particularly the WRONG ideas (you know, capitalism, individual freedom, etc.) Apparently one of our luminaries of sf has fallen for this. (How could they not? After all they bought the so-compelling narrative of Marxism, and yet people keep fighting against it. And they know they’re the smart ones, all their teachers/mentors/figures of authority told they so.) This is why they’re so desperate to make sure no one hears the wrong message. It is also why they are afraid to read — really read — anyone who disagrees with them. (Hence skim till offended, or just calling people the “exorcism words” of “racist/sexist/homophobic” no matter how out of context. I’ve seen someone arguing for the free market being called racist. Which makes about as much sense as screaming the Our Father at a watchmaker. Arguably less.) And if all else fails there is ostracism. Think the wrong thoughts (even if they were the right thoughts last month) and we’ll shut you out and un-person you. And look how we have already destroyed others, better than you.
This means that younger people are terrified of reading/encountering the wrong ideas, much less expressing them. And because ideas change every month, and every time and place will be judged by the concepts of this week, this means not reading anything more than a year or so old, or seeing anything more than a year or so old, or… well, walking past statues to a past they think is tainted and unclean.
This superstitious fear of knowledge of the past is going to undo us all, but on its way it’s destroying the arts. And reinforcing the idea that there is no history.
I’ve mentioned before my shock when in my thirties we got a twenty something in our writers group (she’s now also a luminary of sf/f. Mostly f.) and her admission story was about a famous female sword fighter. This woman had gone to the best universities, but when I — in my innocence — told her I liked the story, but was it alternate history, she informed me — primly — that no, there were always famous women fighters, men had just redacted history to hide them. At which point I thought she was uniquely stupid. (If only.)
Now it’s propagated and metastasized. It’s much, much worse. Because the conspiracy theory of “men hid women’s accomplishments” wasn’t stupid enough, they’ve now decided there is no history. History and different ways of living, and different mind sets, and different beliefs, and different struggles (many of them brought about by different technology and living conditions) never happened. It’s not true. None of it is true. And because none of it is true, they’re not reading/taking an interest in any of it.
I’m not absolutely sure if this is predicated on a belief that reality itself is a lie (hey, they told that one to both my kids. Second son’s reaction was priceless, because that one is mine from his horns to the bottom of his hooves) or simply that everyone in the past lied to distress millenials sensitivities.
What I do know is that whenever these ducklings, in their 30s and 40s stray into the past in their movies and books the results are almost always hilariously bad. (Or vomitously bad.)
They seem to be unaware of the PURPOSE of setting, say, a movie in the past, with historical characters, and instead treat the past as a sort of fantasy land upon which today’s latest fads must be imposed. (And I don’t mean in the minor ways every generation does that because the past is a different country.)
Among the many ways in which the latest trip was hell, was the fact that my back of the seat screen, on the way across the Atlantic, would neither shut off, nor stop playing Mary Queen of Scots.
Look, I don’t watch history movies because I know myself, but this one seemed, just on the scenes I caught, to be particularly loony, with a black-Scotsman and a lady in waiting who was Asian. It wasn’t till I came back that I realized the director had done this on purpose and was crowing up and down the block that she (he? Don’t remember) wasn’t about to direct an all-white cast, and therefore had “remodeled” history.
The idea of history as something you remodel, by adding more fashionable ideas and perhaps a bigger bathroom was … never mind.
I have absolutely no problems with multi-race or multi-cultural casts, but if you want to do that, do a fantasy, a science fiction, or even an alternate history. Make sure people understand that “it’s not always been like this.” Of course, idiots think that casting the past as the present is USEFUL because honestly, they’ve probably been taught the past was always like the present and xyz lied about it. And they want to make sure people today understand “it’s always been like this.”
But it hasn’t always been like this. In fact, the bigotries and small-mindedness of a lot of the past are explained by the fact that travel was difficult and therefore each race and culture relatively isolated and able to indulge their tribalism to their heart content. Making it all about “they lied” doesn’t prepare one for the tribalism resurfacing in today. It prepares one only to be a brainwashed soldier in a war of ideas for which one is woefully unarmed.
And then there is Robin Hood. I don’t know why my husband does this, but not only does he watch these movies long after they become obviously crazy, but he watches the director’s commentary afterwards. I happened to have been cooking and the family room is right next to the kitchen.
The number of times I screamed “Because you’re an idiot, you ignorant toddler” at the self-preening idiots explaining why they’d done this or that is dwarfed by the number of snort-giggle “Oh, yeah, that’s new.”
To put this gently, the total idiots who made the latest Robin Hood movie, had actually no clue of the legend or its depth (okay, most liberals think it’s about robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Actually he robbed from the taxman, but never mind.) but they knew they had to make it “relevant” and cram into it as many up to date “issues” as they could think of. And please, understand, by “think” in this case I mean “regurgitate half digested Marxist pap all over.”
So, you know, the crusades were dreamed up by the church for power. There was no danger from the Saracens. (This at a time when half of Europe was taken over by Moorish imperial ambitions.) Little John is a moor. (Makes as much sense as tits on a bull) And, of course, a victim. Maid Marian is — YAWN — a fighter and it’s very important to see her as a fighter, which completely recasts all the — YAWN — past. And in the end it’s all about fighting these bad times in America under the most oppressive administration EVAH (which is why movies can be made criticizing the administration, just as they were in Germany under Hit– Oh, wait.)
On top of all, their commentary oozes this assumption that war only exists because someone in the west wants power and makes their countries attack hapless and defenseless natives.
The idea that people who have dark eyes/hair or can tan also have agency, and can also form armies, or strike back in other ways is utterly alien to them, because St. Gramsci made these people the perfect victims, who are never evil.
It’s not just that the whole thing is idiotic, or that they think they’re being startlingly original while at the same time saying and doing only the approved things.
It’s more that despite both these movies having dismal performances, these ideas propagate. I was quite startled, for instance, when marketing the Musketeer Mysteries, on being told I hadn’t done my research, because — of course — Porthos was a pirate, which I think was a creation of that execrable Disney movie.
And that a bad narration in head renders people unfit to be leaders of anything or even — solely — voters.
The hour is late, the peril grave, and we must rebuild. Stone by stone — even if they are pebbles — we must rebuild. While they tear down and fill new generations’ heads with mulch, we must rebuild.
Because it’s the only hope for civilization.