In case no one noticed yet, I am a history geek. or history nut if you prefer. And the reason I bring it up this morning is that I see and hear more and more responses to present day situations that just plain ignore history all sorts of history, but especially social history and the history of the United States. so. here starteth the lesson:
1About social history: People in different times, and yes that included people 50 or 60 years ago, lived differently, thought differently, believed differently and acted differently. Differently, that means not the way we live and think and believe and act today. And it’s not the happiest of thoughts, but it is the historical truth of the matter. We are not our parents or grandparents and certainly not our great-grandparents or so forth and so on back through the decades and centuries of human existence – depending on who you ask that’s a minimum of 9,000 years of RECORDED history. Before that the span could be more like 14,000 years.
Why does this matter now? For several reasons:
1) We can’t expect or even ask our ancestors to think and believe and act as we do. They’re gone, for one thing. And they’d be appalled for another. And we’d be wrong because they lived in a different WORLD. So it doesn’t work, historically or presently to press our present-day values on our ancestors. We can’t hold them to our present-day standards. We have to accept that they lived and acted as they thought best and get the heck on with our own lives, doing what we can for the present day world WE live in.
Were they horribly wrong about a whole lot of things? Yes, of course, they were, FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE, not from theirs.
This clearly covers a lot of ground; and the longer I live the more strongly I believe that it is wrong and besides being wrong, it is pointless to castigate our ancestors for wrongdoings they didn’t believe were wrong.
2) Expecting our ancestors, even the ones only a century or so ago to live and think and believe and act the way we do is not just wrong and pointless, its absurd. Case in point: One hundred and fifty+ years ago, in this country and in Europe if not in other parts of the Victorian world, the genders lived very separate lives. They had separate tasks. They had separate duties and just about the only common duty they had was to marry and have children.
And one of the consequences of that separation was that women had strong friendships almost only with women and men had strong friendships mostly only with men. They called these ‘passionate friendships’ and there was NO HINT of sexual context in that phrase, none. So we can’t and we shouldn’t put such a context where it never existed.
Of course, there have always been lesbians, homosexual men, bisexual and transsexual people and heterosexual people too. But that was for many, many reasons an entirely separate part of the culture. It had NOTHING to do with the strong friendships I am talking about.
So, that’s mostly about social history here’s the rest of my … thinking this morning.
Human beings have always been corrupt or corruptible. We are weak-natured and flawed from the get-go. And power has always as one of the Romans said, I think, corrupted us, with absolute power corrupting us absolutely. So it is historically false and majorly so to say that the corruption we see in our present day is worse than any that preceded it. It’s not. There are records that go back to the earliest forms of government to show us how power turns humankind into monsters when we let it.
Here are somewhat more pertinent examples: The wealth and power and concomitant corruption of the British Empire in the 18th century led to the repressions and abuses of the British Colonies and thus to the American Revolution. Do we think the British Empire should have cleaned up its act? Surely! But they didn’t and a whole lot of new, freer countries came to be because they didn’t.
In the 19th century in this country [the US] the wealthy class was a total oligarchy, ruling industry, agriculture, resources, and yes, politics almost absolutely. Sound familiar? Where do you think the present day 1% got the idea? The Gilded Age was just that, Gilded over to hide the extremes of poverty, disease, inequality, injustice, racism, sexism, and other horrors that made up the lives of … everyone else, pretty much. What came of that? Reformers like Teddy Roosevelt, Alice Adams, and many, many more, and suffragettes. So, not the best of all possible trade-offs but not awful.
Still, it’s not historically true to say that modern-day oligarchs are far, far worse. In fact, they’re being exposed far more than ever before in the present day constant media frenzies. Why do you think they want to control the internet? Because they don’t like being exposed as oligarchs in ways their grandfathers and great-grandfathers never were and never could have been.
Now about those suffragettes, yes, you really shouldn’t have reminded me of them, should you? They went to prison for the right to vote. They went to beatings and assaults and starvation and forced feeding and a hundred other tortures for the right of women to vote. And what are their granddaughters and great-granddaughters doing with that right, and the concomitant right to run for elected office?
Well, maybe it’s getting better. But recently those present-day women have been ignoring, rejecting or disdaining that same right. hmmmm.
That’s all, for now. If I’ve ruffled your feathers, darlings, I’m delighted.