April 8, 2002
Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Said many times,
many ways, the consistent and continuous response remains a scrupulous
denial. Should one be motivated to attempt to live present with an
understanding of past, what understanding would that be? How would one
move into future with a recognition of validity of past as guidance?
To know history, per se, is, perhaps, only one of those intellectual exercises, head-trips, which an essentially anti-intellectual humanity chooses not only to ignore but to denigrate. Much as scientists stand ready and willing to certify any product or process, such as tobacco, as safe and sane so do historians stand ready and willing to certify any event or politician as historical when calamitous or insane may more closely approximate actuality.
What, then, may constitute history worth knowing? What from such history may then constitute guidance worth taking? How then would one implement such knowing and guidance?
As has also been said many times and many ways, "Aye, there's the rub!"
And, as the rub so concretely demonstrates, the continuity and consistency of human behavior available throughout recorded history and discernable in rock and midden, as trend and actuality, is downright destructive.
In the late and quite lamentable twentieth century, epochal wars, monumental death and destruction yielded little, if any, learning much less knowing. "The War to End Wars" only bred wars. "The War to Save Civilization" served primarily to destroy civilizations. "Evil Empire" is succeeded by "Axis of Evil." Technologies yield greater and better consumption, greater and better weapons of mass and minor destruction. More treasure is devoted to destroying and rebuilding than building. Irreplaceable resources are not replaced, rather consumed at exponential rates. Countless lives are blown apart or utterly condemned rather than preserved or enhanced. Politicians remain politicians; humans remain human.
As Daniel Quinn in his expanding series of essays as novels demonstrates many times and many ways, when there are more people than land can support, more desires than needs that can be met, somethings always give. Superiority of spirit or quality of culture gives before lusts and greeds. Time and time again, many times and many ways, grandeur is displaced by squalor, dignity denied, ugliness amassed.
We who may profess to grok history acknowledge, first of all, that whatever we may grok will be denigrated and ignored most consistently and continuously. Mass media overwhelms whatever its alternatives may be. Propaganda dispenses fogs named "reality" which obscure any possibilities which may represent actualities.
Are our snivelings, therefore, only destined to accumulate on the trash heaps of ponderous words of portent which mark history? The most superficial scannings of history show the mountains of elegant phrases eroded into silts swept into oceans of ignorances.
May we acknowledge at some levels that we have sold whatever may constitute collective and individual soul for messes of potage? Designating a park as asphalt tracked wilderness, fencing off a pasture as habitat, marking tracts of arctic or rainforest as no-no to invasive explorations and drillings, changing a vacant lot into a community garden, driving a Honda rather than an Expedition -- do any of these and myriad similar actions mark anything historical? Do they make any difference which makes a difference? (Beyond our need for conceit.)
Thoreau made himself a rustic cabin by a New England Pond and still took his laundry home for mama to do. We have inspiring words which bought politicians will recite on ceremonial occasions and Thoreau had clean underwear. Never overlook the value of clean underwear.
In the Second of Twentieth Century World Wars, one side staved off defeat and named it victory. Hardly a breath of relief was allowed before war was again declared, more accurately revived. Historian John Lukacs noted that declining western civilization, consuming itself at accelerating pace, staved off the constant of human behavior perhaps 50 years. Barbarity redux marks the nascent twenty-first century already and again. The sands of time have dropped below.
Barbarity takes many forms, some direct forms and many insidious and veiled forms which are nevertheless barbaric. It is barbaric for an affluent society to deny succor to its needy while eagerly massing untold resources to war against enemies of its own creation. It is barbaric to deny legitimate aspirations of peoples for dignity, recognitions of being worthy of compassion, provision of minimal standards of life, choices for themselves and their ways and so on and so forth. It is barbaric to give precedence to inequality, concentration of resources and wealth, reservations of equity and so on and so forth. It is barbaric to strip the earth for the few. And the actualities remain evident to those who will look.
Many times and many ways, stretching throughout history as recorded and history as experienced, these and similar barbarities constitute the record of human presence on this planet. Good words, if that be what these may be, fall as ash on a barren humanity making barren its being here and now and onward into history, if there will be such.
That a reader or scanner may find essential agreement with some or all of the premises stated or suggested makes little avail as long as those who have seized or been given husbandry squander actualities in barbarities. We are, thus and by definition, unsustainable no matter how effectively we appear to delude ourselves.
And, with that, the great ogre in the sky hacked and spit.
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Milo G. Clark 2002. All rights reserved.
This Week's Internal Links
Shepherding Us Into History's Charnel House - by Stephen Gowans
Peekaboo - by Michael Stowell
America Through The Looking Glass - by David McGowan
A Verbal Analogy - Mind : Body :: Illusion : Reality - by Philip Greenspan
The Untouchable Israelis - by Deck Deckert
An Open Letter To Jewish Americans - by Assaf Oron
What Price Middle East Peace? - by Dr. Alfred M. Lilienthal
The Immigrant Nation (Part I): Mother Of Exiles - by Alma Hromic
Food. More. Now. - by Jan Baughman
Orenda - Poem by Sandy Lulay
You're Dead Mister. Dead. - by Dalton Trumbo (Book Excerpt)
Milo Clark on Swans
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