I have said it many, many times: the biggest error a historian – or anyone appealing to history – can make, is to judge a culture buy their own values and practices.
And yet, every day I hear people who have “studied history” explain to me how the past “got it wrong,” and if only they (the past) had been as smart as the speaker, things would be different – meaning “better” – today. “If I had been there, it would have been done right,” they so often say.
“If I had been there in 1787, we’d have gotten it right!”
Even short term history is treated as if it is an absolute exercise in cause and effect: “The United States didn’t need to drop the atomic bomb. Doing so destabilized the world and led directly to the Cold War.”
As usual, the error that should be obvious is hidden behind the curtain of certainty and the confirmation bias of “it fits my agenda, therefore it must have been this way…”
Even when those who were there leave us their reasoning’s and thoughts, they can be suspect and later subjected to re-evaluation.
But the basic error remains: it is impossible to judge a culture and its time of which we were not a part by our own culture and time; and unwise to assume that we even should. Does that mean that there are no lessons from history? Of course not. But they are almost never what anyone with an agenda wants you to learn.
To understand the present one must understand what happened in the past. But past is not always prologue. There is no predictive theory of history. Just because something happened once, does not absolutely mean that it will or even must happen again. In fact, Dave’s 2nd Law makes it clear that while reasoning’s might be the same or similar, the introduction of technology will insure that the outcome is always slightly or more different.
What did Donald Trump know, and when did he know it? Why do we care? should we care? It is, after all, just sex, right? What can we learn from looking at the data we already know it looks – certainly to me – like either the president is… you know… lying about it or he put way too much trust in a free agent to act on his behalf, presumably for plausible deniability.
Now… should it matter? Let’s scenario rosily and see what might be happening IF things were ever so slightly… different, shall we?