The Right Side of History
We hear much about the importance of being on "the right side of History", however there seems to be some confusion on regarding this. Are we talking about right as in correct, or right as in starboard? If the latter, which way is history facing? If north or south is the answer, is the reference point magnetic, astronomical or axial?
Because of a lack of a reference point, I'm assuming the first definition is the...right one. This has its own problems as it is hard to determine which side history has taken, who history is and what his her or xer motivations are.
To resolve this conundrum, lets examine what side history has been on in the past since it was first determined that History was not a study of the past, but rather, a sentient being whose occupation is something like a Nevada boxing commissioner.
This astounding discovery seems to have been made in the late 1890s when Imperialist liberals like Cecil Rhodes and others like them such as the Fabian socialists, determined that History had a side. It had been moving for about the last 80 years in the direction of an astoundingly fast transition from agrarian to industrial societies and unfathomable advancements in human knowledge. It was then determined by the top minds of society that the right side of history was the side with racism, specifically the innate superiority of honkies to all other races. It was also on the side of empires as well as Darwinian evolution being applied to international relations. Remember, these were the progressives of their day, the central planning guys, they had a plan and history was inexorable in its movement towards progress. Progress was helpfully defined as whatever the Europeans were doing at the moment and this was embraced by the status conscious cliques throughout the world.
So the right side of history is the expansion of the state, racism and unbridled optimism.
The Fabians and their ilk had to make some tweaks after World War One shattered the European soul, took a generation of youth from the population and forced another generation to grow up without fathers.
So by the 1920s it was obvious that the right side of history was nihilism, despair and big government trying to direct everything. Of course the United States, which was almost never been on the right side of history until recently, was run by a subhuman group of untermenchen called "voters" who ignored the wisdom of the high society types and embraced the wrong side of history until a banking scandal and stock market collapse forced them to embrace the right side of history which obviously lay with tariffs and big government.
So by the 1930's hopelessness and nihilism were universally accepted as the right side of history....
Well, not really, because those aging Fabians and their ilk had determined that history was still on the side of central planning, expansive government and direct solutions those annoying problems that confront us all....
...and so those on the right side of history wisely and virtuously gave support to various strong central governments uninhibited by voter interference who could deal with those issues, most notably the U.S.S.R., which people on the right side of history cleverly recognized as the last best hope.
It's good that our betters figured that out, because it turned out that in the 20th century alone there were about 130 million people on the wrong side of history.
Actually, there were lots more, but the rest of the ignorant bastards got away, in part because the Berlin Wall fell down just as the people on the right side of history knew it would when they woke up the day after it happened.
By the 1990s it was obvious that the right side of history was populated with those who understood that China and Russia were becoming representative democracies and would always be our best buddies and life long pals. The extent to which this has been subsequently borne out by events is evidenced by the way history has provided those on is right side with the twittermob...which, in turn has been emulated and improved upon by China. Of course, Russia, that largest of all nations in land area, which stretches from St. Petersburg to...EastAsia, remains the nation we have always been at war with.
Today the right side of history is populated by those who wish to make the people safer by disarming them,
...those who take seriously the free flow of information and their responsibility to stifle it and, as always, those who acknowledge the utter sub-humanity and atavistic inferiority of honkies...well, the ones who aren't well connected or don't live in Tony zip codes.
Most of all it seems, those on the "right side of history" are those who don't give history a great deal of thought, or are secure enough in their status that they believe they'll be insulated from the ramifications of their policies and when those policies become history, they'll be the ones writing it.
Here's the thing..
Recorded history goes back in fits and starts 6 to 8 thousand years. Depending on where one draws the line, humanity has been settling an building for at least twice that and depending on how one defines civilization human history goes back hundreds of thousands of years.
The age we live in, the technology we possess, the prosperity that allows the intellectual decadence of our supposed betters, is a 200 year aberration in that time. A curious and atypical blip that resulted from the combining of several different philosophical and religious concepts to form the enlightenment. For all of human history except for a few short lived aberrations such as Kanazawa, slavery was near universal. The notion of universal human rights that ended slavery is a product of the cultural bank shot that was Christian beliefs intersecting with the enlightenment and the liberating power of the steam engineering the latter made possible. None of this is or was ordained or inevitable. If history is any guide, then the opposite is true. Indeed, barbarity (as we've seen in the Balkans, the Somme, Auchwitz, the middle east as well as the dark, ignored corners of Telford and Rothenam) stands forever ready to return from the darkness it was so recently consigned to.
All we have, this great technological edifice in which we reside, is made possible by a cultural and educational framework that is far more fragile than any of us want to believe.
The very knowledge we possess is increasingly not preserved even in such transitory mediums as parchment or paper but on electrons interacting with magnets. When the Gods of the Copybook Headings return, the resulting collapse could be quite far and quite hard indeed. Note that the societies that may currently be best positioned to survive such a disruption, are not the ones that value free expression, inquiry or liberty, but they are not stupid enough to forsake useful tools or disarm themselves.
The anomalous nature of all we hold dear and its utter uniqueness throughout history cannot be overstated. If history has picked a side, then everything that is good stands in defiance of it.
This needs to be seen more widely, let me put a bug in a few ears.
Posted by: Mauser at Sun Mar 25 22:05:30 2018 (h8yX6)
If anyone doubts, just look at how quickly the prohibition on torture was tossed aside after 9/11 when we were facing an enemy about 1/1,000,000 as strong as the Nazis or the Commies. Or look at the complete freak out over the wrong person winning the 2016 Presidential election. The majority of our political establishment has embraced a conspiracy theory that makes birtherism look measured and sober.
Posted by: MBunge at Mon Mar 26 00:34:58 2018 (h8yX6)
MBunge, I refuse to be concerned with the "torture" of those who put themselves outside all laws. It was the insistence of treating terrorists as if they were lawful combatants entitled to protection by the Geneva Accords that was damaging to civilization, not any measures taken to destroy their barbarism.
Posted by: Rob Crawford at Mon Mar 26 07:00:50 2018 (h8yX6)
That Hogg kid really does seem to model his look after Goebbels.
Posted by: Biff at Mon Mar 26 07:04:47 2018 (h8yX6)
In interesting piece, but you’re missing rather large pieces of the whole idea: the guy who really put History on the map as some sort of separate entity was the German philosopher G.F.W. Hegel. (Not that there had not been eschatological views of history before, notably Christianity....) He wrote extensively and influentially on History (like a good German with a capital "G” - Geschichte). At any rate, his famous formulation was that History was Spirit (Geist) realizing itself in Time. He of the dialectic... Other key points was that History was also the vehicle for Freedom (the German concept Freiheit not the Latin (and through French, English) concept of liberty (libertas)
Engles and Marx (and many others) were much taken with Hegel’s dialectic and absorbed his notion of History progressing pretty inevitably to Freedom, they just had a very different notion of Freedom.
Most of those you cite, such as the social Darwinists and the imperialists, were much, if not always consciously, influenced by Hegelian thought, and the Marxists and the post-Marxian socialists (as opposed to the pre-Marxist socialists) such as the Fabians were quite consciously influenced by left Hegelianism as translated through Marx and Engles.
Posted by: CatoRenasci at Mon Mar 26 07:57:47 2018 (h8yX6)
History of philosophy isn't my bailiwick so I'll smile, nod and thank you for the edification.
I was focusing on the more politically active types and the popular notion that seems to have grown out of a misreading of Darwin that progress and advancement are the inevitable natural order. The late Victorian/Early Edwardian outlook by the then progressives seems to have been a major step forward in mainstreaming this, though of course, there were a few paralells to Jacobin thought as well.
Probably the best blog post I've read since the Death Of The Blogosphere
Posted by: AlanL at Wed Apr 4 16:36:24 2018 (h8yX6)
It occurs to me that the sided-ness of history might have been prefigured by the manifest-ness of destiny - both being cases of the people who like the way things seem to be going declaring that this is all good and right and inevitable, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is some kind of idiot.
Posted by: Edward at Sun Apr 8 19:54:48 2018 (h8yX6)