Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why History Matters

Packing my existence into bags for the umpteenth time.
The sad part?
All my possessions could still fit into my old Camry.
Not complaining though; stuff is just stuff.

A common question I get when discussing one of my majors (along with economics) is "why the hell do you study history?"
A legitimate question.
A constantly fucking annoying question, but legitimate nonetheless.
I won't give you the boilerplate answer.
History isn't to learn from the mistakes of the past.
We're human.
All of us will find a new way to completely fuck up any situation.

Why history is important is different.

I've always been drawn to all the social sciences.
Well, other than anthropology, that shit is boring as hell.
But I always ask myself "why?"
Maybe it's because they demand less in terms of an absolute answer.
However, I think it's because we as humans fascinate me to no end.
The actions of our species is literally ridiculous in terms of what we do.
You've probably heard it from Mark Twain himself:
  • The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.
It's the goddamn truth.
But I digress.

History is important, even in comparison to the other social sciences, for a reason you don't hear much.
It's obtuse but it makes damn sense to myself.
That doesn't speak much to my theory (seeing as I'm a dumbass) but maybe you'll relate.

History is the only pursuit in which complexity is demanded.

Through my studies I have learned a lot about what occurred in the past.
But what makes this field so different is that history at it's core is relative as fuck.
The question of what happened is pretty straightforward and easy to grasp.
The question of why it happened is convoluted and a pursuit that will never deliver a definitive answer.
But the journey to truth is always worth pursuing.
Even if your ass will never reach the finish line.

Because history has no finish line.

Complexity is the inherent understanding that motivation (specifically human) is not black & white.
Why did Julius Caesar organize the plebes to lead to his eventual dictatorship?
Was it just human shittiness & desire for power?
Or was it a genuine concern for the common people?
We will never know.
What we do know is that both reasoning is plausible.
The beauty of history is that motivation is accessible only to the individual committing the actions.
Sure, Hitler is a shithead and declared his shithead intentions beforehand.
But most people don't.
And to make assumptions on the vast majority of historical figures is an exercise in futility.

That applies to daily life as well.
Our interactions and perceptions are influenced both by what situation we are placed in & our free choice to decide what we think.
History teaches that we must always examine all personal motivations & be sure our reactions to others are based not in a singular belief but an understand maybe I'm fucking wrong.
It's easy to pass judgment.
Hell, I do that shit all the time.
But I try to remind myself of the complexity of humans.
People don't do things (generally) for simple purposes.
We all have our justifications and reasoning.
Coming to terms with the fact that other people, whether public officials or just acquaintances, are subjects of the same neural factors is valuable.
We all have our personal structures of the world our brains create to bring meaning to life.
It's not worthless, it's a natural defense against the peril of chaos.
But always, always understand that there is a good chance you are wrong.
History taught me that shit.

And hey, if I'm wrong & I don't get a job teaching in academia I still got my economics bullshit to fall back on.


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