I am a history nut. I believe we are at the leading edge of history as it unfolds, sort of like rolling out a carpet, and everything that has gone before has an impact on what is to come. If you disagree, if you believe that history has nothing to tell us, those old guys were so dumb they didn’t even know how to use an iPhone, you probably don’t need to read any further.
The more I study, the more our present period resembles the period before the First World War. The American Civil war was some 60 year before, followed by a period of great prosperity and peace, the ‘Pax Britannica’, the mighty British Empire policing the entire world. Then the worldwide economy started to falter, Queen Victoria died and the Empire started to fade, small wars popped up here and there. There was a general feeling of unease. Some pundits, noting that over history major wars seem to come along every 60 years or so, suggested things were beginning to unravel and a war was in the offing. The smart leadership were saying “Don’t be silly, history has nothing to teach us oh-so-modern folks, those old guys were so dumb they didn’t even have motor cars or even trains”. Good times, roll on.
The trouble then and now is that rosy outlook – all our problems can be solved by our smart leadership – is based on a couple of faulty assumptions. First, that people are born totally virtuous, and all evil is imparted by society, so that we smart modern leaders can build a perfect society of perfectly virtuous citizens, and utopia will prevail. The second is that wealth is something that is just there, and if some are poor it is because others have taken more than their share.
Our history shows these assumptions are faulty. We are after all animals, born with all kinds of urges and instincts and none of the utopian experiments in history have worked. Wealth is not ‘just there’, it is created by the work and brains and creativity of people striving to better their condition.
So as our society now and before WW1 rolls further and further down a path based on these faulty assumptions, and as our world policeman, (Great Britain then, America now) loses its ability to dominate and control, war seems the inevitable result. A small spark precipitated WW1, the most deadly conflict in history to that point. It has been more than 60 years since WW2 (which was arguably just an extension of WW1).
The final stage before war, then and now, is ‘otherness’; building on and emphasizing what are really petty differences between us. It is so much easier to blame and attack others if we see them as different, not of us, ‘other’. Focus on differences however inconsequential in order to build animosity and bad feelings. One example is the astonishing world-wide rise of anti-Semitism.
Our modern society seems to be to be on a downhill rush to otherness instead of common humanity in so many ways. We speak of ‘tolerance’, which means “you stink, but I can hold my nose”, when what is needed is “acceptance” as fellow human beings and equal citizens. Unless that mindset changes from ‘otherness’ to ‘togetherness’, war seems inevitable.
Apologies for being so depressing. Have a good day.