Twenty-First Century History

by Steve Lancaster6/25/17
When did history begin? For some Christian Evangelicals, history began with creation some 5000 years ago. For some historians,’ it began with Herodotus in the 5th century BCE. Then, archeologists might contend, history began with the Neolithic cultures that developed along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, the Indus culture in India, or the Yellow river culture of China. Anthropologists might cite the first humans walking upright in Africa millions of years ago. Thus, nobody is wholly correct but none is entirely wrong. Using their own tools of assessment, each is correct in their own way.

Twenty-five years ago, Francis Fukuyama wrote a book, The End of History and the Last Man. A few years later Samuel Huntington wrote, A Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. I am not going to review either book but mention them as examples of what I view as a trend in academic circles towards progressively incestuous intellectual thought. Modern historians are more and more talking only to each other with more and more trivia about their specialty and leaving out a narrative for the average reader. It is no wonder that we have an entire generation, several I suppose, who are historically illiterate.

In the view of these thugs, many of whom have expensive degrees, history began on the day they were born.

In 2001, Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath wrote, Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom. It was not a critical success and the classical academic community was outraged. VDH went so far as to challenge universities to not only teach the classics but to assert that they were not doing the job of properly educating their students in the basics of Western culture. On some campuses, finding the classics department will take you into the deepest basement and you will need a lantern to find your way in and you may not escape. The ghost of Cassius Dio will haunt you for the rest of your days.

Well, 17 years later generations that have never read Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, or Caesar’s commentaries on the Gallic Wars are rioting in the streets here and in Europe. Their view of history ignores the tragedy and the triumphs of the 20th century, not to mention the rest of Western history. In the view of these thugs, many of whom have expensive degrees, history began on the day they were born. Anything before that is immaterial, not relevant and should be ignored. Sadly, their parents and even grandparents are just as ignorant.

George Santayana wrote in The Life of Reason “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And, Robert Heinlein in Time Enough for Love: “A generation that ignores history has no past and no future.” So, in one aspect, perhaps Fukuyama is correct. It is the end of history, just not the way he thought it would go.

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6 Responses to Twenty-First Century History

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    History in a vacuum really isn’t history at all. It can be changed at will (as in Orwell), for example.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    In the view of these thugs, many of whom have expensive degrees, history began on the day they were born.

    You can’t understand the Marxist-infused mind (that includes Progressives, liberals, Leftists, Communists, socialists, anarchists, etc.) unless you understand what Steve has written above.

    If you accept the premise that America and the West are based upon exploitation, there is nothing to learn from the immediate past.

    Of course, universities haven’t just wiped American history from the curriculum. Apparently you’ll be hard-pressed to learn much about antiquity. But you’ll surely learn how to put a condom on a banana and to smile at sodomy and various forms of mental illness.

    At this point, you’d have to have a screw loose to spend one time to send a son or daughter to university unless it is somewhere like Hillsdale College or unless your son or daughter was learning one of the hard sciences (electronics, programming, chemistry, medicine, engineering, etc.) at a university that at least had a quality curriculum in this area.

    To study history is inherently to study the ways, means, and ideas of people quite unlike ourselves. This requires stepping back from the narcissism curriculum (in our entertainment culture and in our schools) whereby we must constantly have our precious snowflake little selves reflected back to us.

    Yours truly has often commented on how this has ruined many modern movies because of the refusal or inability to escape modern conventions and shallow conceits and immerse oneself in a different time and place. Although the first movie had its moments, the awful Sherlock Holmes remakes with Robert Downey Jr. are the epitome of a generation who cannot resist playing Narcissus and looking into the pool at this own supposed beauty.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That’s an interesting point. Is the lack of interest inn history linked to the sel-esteem movement?

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        Tim, I don’t know that there is a cause-effect relationship but there surely is some sort of symbiotic relationship. College students in the 18-30 demographic are woefully uneducated about modern history when they enter university. I hold the elementary and high schools completely responsible. They memorize dates and events to disgorge on tests but critical thinking about those dates and events is mostly lost in intellectual masterbation.

        As for classical texts and the wisdom of Homer et al. A reference is lost on them. Oedipus is a horror story told for its sexual content rather than its examination of hubris. Antigone is not about confronting the power of the state and the individual, but part two of the Oedipus horror. They seem disappointed there no sex.

        For over twenty years I have seen minds full of mush, march through classrooms with increasing narcissistic focus on me, me, me. Some do escape the indoctrination and even become history professors, but the overwhelming number pass through without effect.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Oedipus Rex is also a tale of fate catching up with you. My college English textbook included it (though i had read the whole trilogy in high school). It was in the commentary to it that I first encountered the medieval story of the appointment in Samarra.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Self-esteem and in simpler terms “White man’s knowledge is racist.”

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