December 05, 2006

Erase And Rewind?

I have a question – if we removed history, if we destroyed all the history books and banned any mention, any reference, any thought of the past, what would be the outcome? Would we be freed from the prejudices which have grown over time, the historical enmities and hatreds, the rounds of “your family killed my family”? Or would we have lost so many lessons that it would cause a mass repetition of all the worst things to have happened?

I wonder…


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  1. Let’s give it a bash, I’m game. It’s not like we’re not repeating mistakes anyway…

    05 Dec 2006, 14:25

  2. except that, we’d need some history to know who we were and what relation we all had to each other. Then you’re into the realms of selective history. isn’t going to work…......It’s an awesome idea though

    05 Dec 2006, 14:56

  3. Wouldn’t it be like living in America?

    05 Dec 2006, 15:58

  4. Michael

    It’s always seemed to me that relating a given situation to its historical anticedants doesn’t always tell us that much; it often seems more useful as a means of rhetoric than as a source of information.

    Consider Iraq, for example. You can compare it to nazi germany implying invading is a great idea, or you can compare it to vietnam implying invading is a terrible idea. These two contradictory comparisons don’t help us work out if invading is a good or bad idea. One could say history contains examples of pretty much everything if you’re willing to make vague enough comparisons.

    On the other hand, I some historical examples are relevant to counter incorrect “common sense”. For example, Vietnam demonstrated that even an overwhelmingly powerful military doesn’t guarantee victory against an insurgent force. And goodness, look at Iraq, it would appear that even an overwhelmingly powerful military hasn’t guaranteed victory over an insurgent force.

    05 Dec 2006, 16:09

  5. I’d be sad :( Becuase throwing away history means throwing away everything cultural:language, literature art, because there’s no context anymore.

    05 Dec 2006, 16:36

  6. thumbs through 1984 Could be Orwellian, although that means we change history to current views etc.
    It should get rid of most prejudice though, except people will still be in the same situation ie Immigrants in the poorer sections of cities and the like.

    05 Dec 2006, 16:51

  7. Expunging the past would probably mean life ending up like Big Brother, a meaningless morass of ephemeral social interactions devoid of any context or significance.

    05 Dec 2006, 17:40

  8. All good points but (enter Devil’s Advocate) surely we would be left with the fruits of the past, and the knowledge of how they work? The trombonist can still use the trombone, the driver can still drive, the power stations still generate power. Thus we have no culture but all the raw materials for creating culture. Considering how much we know humans like culture, how it always emerges, the sudden theft of culture would create a void and need for a new culture. All have lost everything en masse – is the result cooperation in creating new culture? Or still division?

    I would be intrigued if the same dividing factors still manage to arise. I suspect there will still be dividing factors as, even with our relatively stable society, look at how many excuses an average person can find to be in opposition (to graeter or lesser degrees of friendliness) to others – cricket, football, universities’ performance, etc.

    Also what do we do with Shirley Bassey? She’s seen it before and she’ll see it again. She must be eliminated.

    05 Dec 2006, 17:56

  9. Even if we still had the fruits of the past we would need the tool of History to be able to make any sense of them. My way of seeing it has always been that History and ‘the past’ are two separate concepts, with the one constituting a tool to aid some kind of understanding of the other. Thus, any attempt to impose any kind of order or epistemological framework on the past is automatically History no matter who does it, where, when, or why. One could almost say that ‘the past’ and History, though discrete concepts, are bound up with each other to such an extent that neither can exist without the other. Without ‘the past’ there would be no need for History to exist, but on the other hand, even the most elementary conception of what ‘the past’ is necessitates some kind of use of the tool of History, even if it is only as a bludgeon to divide past from future. The question is more whether we need, for want of a better word, ‘good History’ (to which my answer is, I suspect, wholly predictable).

    05 Dec 2006, 18:57

  10. It’d be replaced with an entirely new “History” to the liking of those in power or who would come to power (c.f. 清朝 Qing Dynasty, China), or later Historians would be baffled by what actually happened and spend ages agonising it wishing that they could glimpse at more of the fragments of the picture they’ve already pieced together (c.f. the emergence of the Mexica).

    05 Dec 2006, 20:33

  11. I’m gonna say History is too big and all-encompassing for this to even be possible. Or at least impossible without destroying humanity as we know it – how far we have come, etc. You can’t separate the History of ideas from the fruits of the past. You can take away bits of information here and there but, assuming you’re able to take them away at a rate faster than the gaps can be ‘filled’ by deduction, you’re swiftly going to get into the territory of removing important bits of information that we rely on. In my quite drunk state tonight I can’t think of a better example to back my argument up than the use of former cases in law courts’ decision making process on contemporary rulings.

    05 Dec 2006, 22:44

  12. my view is that within a very small amount of time, we’d be back the same again.

    The better point is, I have a major highschool crush on one of your teammates, Holly.

    06 Dec 2006, 00:16

  13. Hero

    Actually the question is more, do we really learn from History anyway – the ‘vietnam’ overwhelming force v insurgency is a mirror of what happened when the English tried to use overwhelming force to overcome the US untrained and disorganised insurgency.. that ended up winning independence. If the US can’t see the perspective of the colonised after that, then who can!

    Holly for president!

    (actually some of it would deal with a lot of my problems if we were to take it to the extreme – we wouln’t have to listen to the f’in beatles all the time)

    06 Dec 2006, 10:44

  14. You would probably end upwith the desturction of the world by generational chinese whispers. We would remembr history, and pass it on – and our kids would pass it on, but a bit different, and they don’t actually remember it – then after 5 generations things like “In Hiroshima, the nuclear bombs massacred millions of people in a horrif blast” becomes things like “Apparently, they fought the soldiers at Hiroshima with a nuke as they make a large explosion”

    Oh, and we would lose many amazing recipies for some truely wonderful fods – which would be an even bigger shame.

    06 Dec 2006, 13:30

  15. Joe

    Hey fantastic blog. great design and great content!

    06 Dec 2006, 14:32

  16. I think Hero watched Monarchy by Starkey the other night.

    06 Dec 2006, 15:33

  17. Adam…. I second that. The world would never be worth living in, if it weren’t for the existance of Mensaf.

    Vincent… I had managed to get that damned Starkey out of my memory and it took a bloody long time and now you’re bringing up floods of tabloid-style “history” suggested to us by a disdainful teacher (“guys, it’s crap, but you have to read it anyway. And once you’re done reading it, time to read some real historians.”)

    06 Dec 2006, 15:51

  18. Hero

    Nope! Funny though I was talking about how often what I say is ‘explained’ by people saying I have read one source or another.. when actually I am working things out for myself!

    Actually it is because it is also the subject of a talk that is given by a general who had experience in Iraq

    06 Dec 2006, 15:59

  19. The food argument is the best I’ve heard. I am hungry. Also the Chinese whispers is a very good point, especially as people will also be looking at things and trying to work out where they come from which could come up with all sorts of false but strangely logical histories.

    06 Dec 2006, 17:55

  20. especially as people will also be looking at things and trying to work out where they come from which could come up with all sorts of false but strangely logical histories.

    Like evolution!

    Oops.

    07 Dec 2006, 05:13

  21. Casper

    “A nation must be prepared to soberly review its history. Because only those who remember yesterday also understand what is happening today and can grasp what could happen tomorrow.”

    -Willie Brandt

    We just need more people to understand that and then we’d be laughing!

    08 Dec 2006, 11:40

  22. such a stupid quote.

    12 Dec 2006, 17:19


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