Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's Been at Least This Bad, Usually Worse

Historians: I suppose they develop other maladies in order to compensate. But here's one problem they don't have: they don't live with the illusion that once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, there was this wonderful, easy world, and that if we could just get back to that place and time, all would be right. The other side of this illusion relates to the present. It's baaaaad. Really, really bad. In fact, there's hardly ever been a time that was worse. If you ever doubt any of this, just ask a real expert like Glenn Beck.

Compare. Summarizing they way things were in England during the period from 1307-1471, the late Norman F. Cantor wrote:

For two hundred years there was chronic instability; change was vast, enveloping, and inescapable. Wherever we look are panic, brutality, violence in the streets. This is an upside-down world; a troubled, feverish world. . . . Even the most superficial account of the history of great aristocrats is a record of conflict, treachery, killing, beheading, and murder—even the surface pattern is one of general and extended violence. And underneath this surface lies a general dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and a tremendous yearning. . . . It is a time characterized by a prevailing apocalyptic feeling—the deep and haunting belief that the world is coming to an end. The English: A History of Politics and Society to 1760. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967), pp. 251-52.

Makes many of our problems seem downright easy, doesn't it? Oh, I know. But they're our problems.

1 comment:

eirenetheou said...

Because we live as historical persons in historical time, and because history is continuous rather than discontinuous, every century inherits from the centuries before. In this twenty-first century, the cumulative inheritance is daunting.

i am fascinated by the world of the past, and i love to study it and learn from it, but i could not live there, and would not if i could. i have life that i could not have had in any earlier time. i have no illusions of some earlier, better time. Yet there is nothing in this hellbent twenty-first century that compels me to linger, and the future that looms for our children and grandchildren is something i do not wish to see.

May God have mercy.