I’ve become fascinated with history. Specifically the long view and moments of unreality. How did society start with cavemen who lived in reality or died if the game migrated when they weren’t paying attention, and wind up with modern man who is supernaturally good at ignoring the obvious? That arc is spelled out in history.
Randomly picking one social insanity among millions, consider Rotherdam’s shameful cover up of massive sex trafficking. Who deliberately let that continue? Apparently everyone! Would Og the caveman have seen what his eyes told him in Rotherdam? Could he see what British social workers didn’t? Or wouldn’t? Or had learned to not see? Would he have solved it right quick with his trusty hunting stick? Or would he have invented a story about how it wasn’t what he was seeing? Somehow I doubt Og would have been paralysed with self doubt. Shouldn’t we, presumably sane modern folks with advantages like books and microscopes, exceed Og’s facilities?
Furthermore, how unaware of history does one need to be before it’s just plain embarrassing? If earnest looking politicians can stand in front of television cameras and tell me a bank is “too big to fail“, what the hell am I to make of the Holy Roman Empire? It was big. It failed.
There has to be more to the story than “single point in time” stupidity. History hints at it. Perhaps I was optimistically inspired to consider history by a book? Maybe I was pessimistically inspired to seek wisdom as my nation snuffed Volvos? But history means something.
About the Volvos; regardless of fuel efficiency, sane people don’t go on pogroms against machines. Yet America killed them. For what; for existing? Did we just see the vehicular version of the Spanish Inquisition? Suppose your job is to burn heretical cars. That’s fruitbat quality weird! Does it seem logical only if you carefully avoid thinking it over? How many beers do you need on a Friday evening to relax after a hard week of acting like a lunatic?
More recently, by what logic is a disturbing outbreak of hemorragic fever unworthy of screwing up air travel? Haven’t I been told that the safety of the travelling public merits an army of uniformed tools who grope my balls looking for a pocket knife? Is Ebola similar to another hemmoragic fever? I suppose that one is just ancient history; like the Roman Empire (which, having failed, must have been dwarfed by JP Morgan). How did death by disease become an issue addressed by states while school lunches are an urgent Federal responsibility? Do we need to revisit school lunches on a 30 year cycle? Do we need to revisit “plague” based on histories from 1346, or 1775, or 1918, or are we to pretend that this is all new?
I think it’s age. I’m getting old. (I ‘aint dead yet so shut up.) You hit an age where you’ve seen stupidity ebb and flow. You see the echoes of the past.
In 2009 heat death was to be averted by throwing money at Solyndra’s solar panels? This came 34 years after the impending ice age (Newsweek, 1975- PDF). None of this reminds us of Vikings bailing on Greenland 500 years ago? The Vikings, in my humble opinion, were not pussies, did they perish for lack of solar panels or because they were smaller than JP Morgan?
Soviets waited in line to buy toilet paper and it sucked. Now it’s Venezuelans. It still sucks. Toilet paper isn’t particularly complex. We all crap. Is it truly necessary to relive the loop tape of shortages? Venezuela followed an almost mathematically precise course. We’ve seen the course before. Someone must have been surprised by it.
I’d like to find such a person. I’d like to ask what they saw at Rotherdam and what one does with sinful Volvos and if they’ve ever gotten the flu and what temperature they think it ought to be and how many solar panels it would take to fix it. I’d compliment them on their spiffy Che Guevara t-shirt (made in China, sold at an American University, bought on credit). Will they see it coming when I kick them in the balls? Running out of toilet paper sucks.
Someone has to take a stand.
By now you’re wondering what made me write this and who put it in my cereal. I was inspired by Strange Seeds on Distant Shores at Popehat. You won’t regret clicking over to read it. Seriously, go… now!
Back so soon? Liar, you didn’t read it. I can tell. Anyway Strange Seeds on Distant Shores starts by discussing unreality. It’s described from the eyes of someone who experienced the Soviets back when they were beyond the initial killing of people in droves and had settled into decades of rationed toilet paper:
“Growing up under communism, things didn’t make perfect sense. Facts didn’t quite fit together. But because everything – schools, newspapers, radio – was all from the same people, you never knew what was wrong…but you could tell that something wasn’t right. It was like boxing while you’re blind folded. You keep getting hit in the face, but you don’t know why. Only after I got out did I see how the real world really was, and how everything we’d been told was lies and distortions.”
Holy shit! Nail on the head! Tell me you haven’t felt that way? Something isn’t right and it’s hard to say why. Exactly! I just spewed 600 words about stupidity that hits me in the face. Everything from Volvo pogroms to pretending microscopic Ebola will magically fail to cross American borders that don’t stop full grown people. It’s lies and distortion and it gets under your skin.
Then he relates last week’s election (the decisive sweep of the stupid party over the evil party) to history. He points out a dichotomy in the Declaration of Independence that I never considered:
“On the one hand, the king meddled in the freedoms of the common people by having too many laws and too much taxation (you can find all of these complaints in any Republican party platform of the last fifty years):
- “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. “
- “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”
- “For abolishing the free System of English Laws”
- “He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death” (black helicopters! NAFTA highway!)
Yet on the other hand, the king meddled – not in the freedoms of the common people – but in the freedoms of the Harvard elites to rule the common people:
- “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
- “He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance”
- “He has refused to pass other Laws”
- “He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws “
- “For suspending our own Legislatures”
The first is a list of red state complaints: “the government is too big!”. The second is a list of blue state complaints: “the government is too small!”.”
Damn, he’s right! The more government/less government thing goes way back. He traces it to the Magna Carta in 1215. One can argue about the details but his general outline has some good ideas. More to the point, history is a way to analyse the stupid that surrounds us and seek a little perspective. As Pope points out:
“Having an accurate view of the world is rewarding in its own right, but it’s especially nice when the alternative is being blindfolded and punched in the face.”
History is on to something. It’s worth paying attention.