Archives for posts with tag: history

Culture is to human communities what DNA is to biological species.

It transports vital information from one generation to the other. Hence providing a venue for survival.
Furthermore, both culture and DNA can change in time. Hence providing a venue for evolution.

The difference between culture and DNA being, of course, the fact that culture is way more fluid than DNA.
DNA changes only once for each generation – what you get at birth is what you’re taking to the grave, while culture is in constant flux.
No individual organism has anything to say about their genetic information but almost every human is capable of learning almost anything.

Now for the historical part.

Stage one.

Veneration of the elders. The elders were the depositories of the common knowledge. Hence everybody took good care of the ‘data bases’.

Stage two.

Somebody learned to write.
Elders were no longer indispensable. More and more information could be ‘warehoused’ in alternative ways.
A structure was needed to manage the new ways of dealing with the vital information.

Stage three.

The state is born.
At first the structures which insured that culture was passed from one generation to another had been rather empiric: kingdoms, monasteries, etc.
Soon after the Enlightenment things had become more rational. Cultured people became nations and the academic scholars gave us the state. As the structure charged to make sure that culture and people stay together. Hence providing for the nation’s survival.

States who had been in constant contact – read rivalry, kept each-other fit. Or else.
States ‘removed’ from reality – geographically, by becoming too powerful to care or both, had experienced a natural decay. The people at the top of the food chain had forgotten about those at the bottom and those at the bottom had lost faith in their leadership.

States too weak to survive – for various reasons, have succumbed while those too powerful for their own sake have eventually imploded.

Psychology to the rescue.

Culture is more fluid than DNA for a reason.
DNA follows exclusively the laws of nature while culture is heavily influenced by us.
We, men, are the measure of all things.
All life heavily transforms the place it inhabits.
So do we, humans. Only we do it willingly. On purpose, that is.

Now, that we have amassed so much information – about life in general and about how we relate, as agents, to the entire process, we have reached a reckoning moment. What next?

Are we going to choose the path of the cuckoo or that shown to us by Hokule-a?

– History is the story of what we remember of what had happened, right? Based on our shared individual recollections, the ‘written sources’ we have at our disposal and our interpretation of any other material traces we might have found… and properly preserved…

– Yep!

– Then no history, no matter how diligent and well intended the historian, will ever be the actual representation of what had really happened, back then!

– Well, you seem to be quite familiar with Heidegger’s work.

– I can’t say that. Popper’s injunction that science is more about being prepared to acknowledge your ignorance than about really knowing is enough for me.

– Then we might be soon delivered from History, after all.
When enough people will share your attitude/paradigm – that no matter how hard we’ll ever try we’ll never know anything for sure… it will be impossible for any would be dictator to pretend they have the ‘right’ answer for any problem we might encounter.

 

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Funny, isn’t it?

Or yet another reminder that constantly cracking jokes about everything and everybody is not exactly the best thing to do… Let’s compare the relative importance of the British Empire during Shaw’s coming of age – the period when he developed his habit of cracking jokes about everything, no matter how serious the subject, with the fact that Scotland is seriously planning a second independence referendum.

Or let me remind you of another Brit who enjoys cracking annoying jokes:

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Not funny anymore?

OK, let me try another tack.

What if

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Could it be that the problem resides with us?

That this is basically a matter of what we do with whatever (history) has been passed to us by our forefathers? That what has been passed to us does have its own importance but that we can’t do very much about it?
History can only be rewritten but never changed…
We, on the other hand, can and should learn to deal with the dynamics of this world.

 

learning_from_history

How come ‘those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it’?

Could it be that some of the ‘students of history’ are doing something wrong?
Misunderstand the very lessons they try to impose on the others?

Cracking annoying jokes about the matters at hand instead of honestly helping others to reach intellectual autonomy and then respectfully allowing them to develop their own interpretations of things?

 

Fright of death enables ‘human farming’.

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