Whatever Happened to History?
According to a recent poll, 72 per cent of Americans think that we are now in the “worst” period of American history. Polls are dubious things and the great historian John Lukacs has questioned whether there really is any such thing as “public opinion.” But this poll simply supports what we already knew about pervasive historical ignorance, which is exhibited every hour of every day by the politicians and the minions of the “news” media.
Americans are a momentary and self-referential people. They can’t remember what happened last week unless it was on a soap opera. Few have any notion of ancestors, and, except for those of us who cherish our grandchildren, posterity is never thought of. If it is not now it does not exist. This is an unprecedented situation. In every past civilised society even common people had some idea of what their ancestors did in the great events of the past. The past was felt - it was not a theory or a slogan. And they planted trees and built houses that would only be enjoyed by their descendants.
It does not help, of course, that a great chunk of the American population are foreigners who have no connection to the American past. And no interest except in using distorted versions as weapons of extortion. Every people cherishes its own history, which is often somewhat mythical. Are we seeing a new American history for a new American people? Even people with actual American heritage have forgotten who they are and adopted the new history.
So, most Americans are not aware of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, the tense times of nuclear standoff in the Cold War? They think today is “the worst of times.” We, of course, already know of this widespread plain ignorance of the simple facts. The “historians” are largely responsible for this, especially the current and rising professors who have been teaching distorted present-centered history for decades now. Teachings which have become the false and ridiculous claims of aggressive minorities and revolutionaries.
But the poll tells us more than widespread ignorance of simple facts of history. The majority, if it is such, who think this is the worst of times are not simply ignorant---they have a catastrophic unconsciousness of what has gone before and the fundamentals of how societies of human beings work. They have lost all knowledge of human experience. Thus, imperious childish demands for things that are imaginary or will not work. I would go so far as to say that we are in a post-civilisational era. A large part of the population has dropped out of Western Civilisation, the highest and brightest human achievement.
History, properly understood as the study of the past for knowledge and understanding of ourselves as human beings, has been the unique hallmark of Western Civilisation. The concept of a meaningful course of human experience does not otherwise exist. We learn some things by scientific examination of ourselves and the world. We have the guidance of Scripture, which is sometimes hard to discern. But all else we really know is the past. The future is a fantasy that nobody can know. We are in the process of losing history and therefore any meaning for our life that is more than a rapidly passing moment.
More of the Way We Are Now
Previous Presidents used “the bully pulpit” to communicate issues to the people. Trump uses the sissy tweet.
There has never been any President who was “considering” so many actions that are never heard of again.
Imagine Joe Biden in debate in the British House of Commons. He would not last five minutes.
There is no longer any news reporting of actual events. There is only reporting of the “reporters’” opinions and feelings.
How much do you actually know about the COVID plague? How many got it? How many died from it actually? How many people have tested positive but have no symptoms? How many had symptoms but recovered? What is the rate by age, sex, race of infection and mortality? The government spends millions on thousands of overpaid people dealing with “health” who have been useless or worse. The government and the press have conspired to keep you as confused as possible. They are covering their incompetence and using the event to push unrelated agenda.
Meanwhile, they have catastrophically damaged the economy and the damage has been inflicted almost entirely on us “basket of deplorables” while the government lives safely and the obscenely rich get even more obscenely rich.
If Southerners were organised and had any money we would see that our monuments are put into safe custody. There is no reason for them to inhabit corrupt cities. The same goes for military bases of the corrupt U.S. military which do not deserve honourable Confederate names.
Just think of the fun we can have selecting names and erecting statues to all the outstanding politicians, activists, entertainers, and athletes who grace current American life. In fact, athletes who are learned in history have been prominent in the current iconoclasm. Clemson University, named for its slaveholding Confederate founder, should be renamed for Linsey Graham or Nicki Haley. Or perhaps one of its past great athletes.
The possibilities for hilarious renaming of institutions, streets, etc. are limitless! Let’s get started. A country’s symbols should reflect the people it belongs to, not the people it used to belong to.
For a long time I thought of myself as a Jeffersonian democrat. Like Jefferson I really believed that the people would choose rightly if we could just get rid of corrupt state capitalists and politicians interfering with their will. The trouble is, Oprah watchers, mall shoppers, and devotees of commercial sports are not a people. They are the urban rabble, undeserving of citizenship, that Jefferson feared.
American society is now in a revolutionary situation similar to the early events of the French and Russian Revolutions. It is a classic Leninist scenario.
The first phase of the revolution is mostly peaceful. It involves infiltrating, weakening, and converting the institutions of society to render them ineffective when the second phase, taking to the streets, arrives. Phase One is already fully accomplished. The executive branch, Congress, courts, media, educational establishment, much of state and local government, the corporations, the churches, are already deceived and demoralised to the point of paralysis in the face of violence. In fact they are abetting the revolution.
Antifa has already proved that it can operate violently without any official interference and is happy to enlist the criminal element when it takes to the streets. By one report only three of the 535 members of Congress has spoken out on the need to put down violence. Donald Trump, once thought to be a bold leader, hides in cowardly confusion behind the armed protection that is officially denied to the people. Everywhere officials have fallen to their knees before the mobs.
A violent thug who died in police custody has now become the Christ of a new anti-factual seemingly worldwide religion, near universally worshipped. This is not too surprising. In 1859 the New England intelligentsia made the psychopath serial murderer John Brown into a sacred figure. The Yankee segment of the American people, who rule most of the time, go crazy about every other generation. It happened in the 1850s-1860s when John Brown flourished and Republican mobs and military force crushed all opposition to Lincoln’s revolutionary war against a large segment of the American people. All done in a pose of moral righteousness.
The primary organs of our society are fully committed to an imaginary world governed by catastrophically false notions of history and of the working of human affairs. We used to say that liberals who were mugged were converted to conservatives. That does not work any more.
We had the craziness ruling in the 1960s and 1970s. Now it has come again. People wonder about the subjection of white women to the new religion of abasement. No mystery. Young white women have grown up in a society where their fathers, brothers, boyfriends are either wimps or con artists. Not surprising that they identify with the thugs who appear (deceptively, of course) to be actual men.
Once the powers are rendered ineffectual the third phase comes---the actual assumption of power---along with the denunciation and elimination of all the elements who are not on board with the new revolutionary regime. As long as they can keep their high places Donald Trump, Michael Pence, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton will have no problem in aiding and abetting the new revolutionary regime.
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews