by Steve Lancaster 6/25/17
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.