There is a flow to history. In school, we’d study the French Revolution for a while and then have a test on it and then we’d switch gears and learn about World War I. It turns out, however, it’s possible to trace events from one that led to the other.
The unlikely happens regularly. The opposite to my previous lesson, very often things happen which seem highly unlikely in their context. The Russian Revolution comes to mind, but there are plenty of examples.
Lenin ending up in power seemed like the least likely outcome. But it turns out if you let things get too far out of hand then you never know who will come to power.
It’s an important lesson for us today as we slowly lose faith in our government, corporations, neighbors, etc… desperation is growing and extreme outcomes are becoming more likely. We don’t know who to trust so many end up trusting the most manipulative and least trustworthy individuals. Forward progress may soon no longer be the most likely outcome.
Very little has changed. Popular understanding of history makes a big deal of the revolutions: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Protestant Revolution, the Russian Revolution, etc. We are told they are major turning points in human evolution and progress. But when you look at fundamental concepts of how rulers and the ruled behave and interact you see very little real difference.
The privileges, power and sense of entitlement of the old landed elite are little different from the privileges, power and sense of entitlement of today’s wealthy elite. Landed aristocrats enjoyed power and extra income (without work) controlling land while today’s capitalists enjoy power and extra income (without work) controlling money. Because they own the land/wealth they feel they are entitled to make decisions about how we use resources and what opportunities we as individuals have.
After the Russian Revolution, it was a sort of bureaucratic elite that enjoyed the position and privilege. Rarely have we seen a political and economic system where the people are in charge. We’ve only seen different flavors of the same brand of “civilization” with elite rule for the elite.
Are other brands possible? Is government of, for and by the people possible? Is an economic system that rewards hard work, makes use of all our human potential (helps people realize their potential) and leaves room for individual expression and freedom possible? Is the fact that we’ve never had it proof that it is impossible or does it offer promise that if we only could think of a new way to organize and manage civilization then anything would become possible?
People are amazing. We lose our way easily. Our political and economic systems push us down paths of unspeakable inhumanity.
But despite our systems there is a persistent thread of kindness, innovation and “humanity” lying under the surface.
When we find ourselves in the right conditions we can reason our way through incredibly difficult and abstract questions. It gives me hope one day we can overcome the power our systems have over us and discover new ways to live and work with each other that truly revolutionizes civilization.
Until we do we are condemned to repeat history, so the lessons you learn from history will tell you the future.
Rome will fall again and the Middle Ages are coming.
The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth,