As an immigrant to this country, it is extremely painful intellectually and emotionally to listen to present day argument on President Trump’s attempted immigration ban or on immigration overall. As contemplated in my previous “Classism and Democracy” submission, I see this argument as further proof of Plato’s and historical precedent’s prediction that democracy eventually becomes anarchy which then eventually becomes tyranny. The most painful part is listening to all parties make arguments from or based on history.
I love history. There is no reading more enjoyable then reading a detailed factual history written by a scholarly historian. I am not talking about popular histories that sacrifice factual detail in order to bring supposed important personalities or dogma to life such as those written by Howard Zinn or Doris Kearns Goodwin that are really polemics. I mean detailed factual histories in which the reader must use their life experience and imagination to bring the participants to life: regardless of whether it is a lone forever unknown soldier or sailor defending their post to the death or the general or admiral who put them there. It is really a beautiful thing to have come to life in my imagination some part of the generations of human lives dead now whose struggles have made my world what it is.
Regardless of this love, in the present I know history to be — maybe it always was — a fungible commodity to be changed, amended, altered, or outright lied about in order to support whatever the powers and their house servants (such as Ta-Nehisi Coates) believe the present ought to be or whatever they want to make of the future. They all do it. The Left argues that the Right’s arguments against feminism or transgender whatever are the same socially marginalizing arguments made against women and homosexuals in the past while ignoring that their arguments for a socialism-based system of morality based on government power are the same as used by every modern form of Western tyranny from communism to Nazism. The Right argues that the Left’s arguments for a socialism-based system of morality based on government power is the same as every modern form of Western tyranny from communism to Nazism while ignoring that their arguments for individual freedom and social responsibility for individual decision ignore the unavoidable reality that the majority of humans are not free to choose their economic, social, or religious positions in life.
Argument from history requires detailed historical knowledge and the ability to critically analyze historical details. One cannot do the latter without the former. The former takes work unless reading history is your version of having fun — humans in the latter category in my experience are few and far between. Unless you have a large stockpile of historical facts in your mind from all aspects and views of history there is nothing for your mind to critically analyze. As far as I can see, except for history scholars or nerds such as me who spend their free time reading history instead of having modern fun, few engage in the work required to critically analyze history to the point of allowing for honest argument based on history.
So, knock it off! We live in a complicated world. There are enough facts to learn and critically analyze in the present in order to use for argument on what the future ought to be or on what ought to be. If there is any hope of avoiding Plato’s prediction of anarchy and then tyranny, forget history and stick to knowing and analyzing the present. One lesson from reading history I have learned is that it does not repeat itself out of ignorance and it is not a straitjacket. If one pragmatically understands the present, one can change the future. When history does repeat itself, it does so out of destiny, fate, luck, or whatever one wants to call it, and there is nothing anyone can do about avoiding that repetition, either out of knowledge or ignorance.