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Kim Laes

overseas repressentative, Thomas Cook Group

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What does history tell us about the present?

History, as a science or just as a public domain, are the stories we tell and the images we build of the past. But exactly how much of this is about the past? Doesn't history tell us more about how we look at the present? Does it not tell us more about our own desires and uncertainties?

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    Jan 30 2012: Everything.
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    Jan 28 2012: Hm, both history as a science and history as stories that are told show to me the basis which we are projected on, at the same time, in many cases, show absurdities and the things we should better not do. Of course, some moments in the history inspire and shows how humans can be great (I do not have in mind the leaders who conquered half of a continent etc. by their 'sharp mind and genial strategies').
    • Jan 29 2012: True indeed. I am currently undertaking a research into the depiction of Thomas More in modern historical culture and I am focussing on the sixties. It is very interesting to see how a great deal of the events of the twentieth century (WO II, totalitarism,...) are brought in connection with the figure of Thomas More (and Beckett). People projected the 'current' tensions back into the time and read history that way. I think it is something that counts for all history. We 'read' history not because we want to know the past but because we want to understand ourselves better.
  • Jan 28 2012: ...that male domination has been a failure at causing fair, just, healthy, happy societies anywhere. It would be brilliant to make sure that males and females share power equally, so that we won't have such distorted institutions, lack of justice, insufficient happiness and fulfillment and other negative things that are the consequences of male design and male domination. Women must have an equal input into the creation and management of all societal institutions and systems. When women contribute equally to all parts of society, we will all live healthfully, prosperously and happily ever after.
  • Jan 31 2012: History shows me at least that there is much, much more ignorance permeating our worldview than we believe, and that most of these given "truths" are nothing more than constructs or interpretations.
    When you look at history, its easy to see from our 21st century intellectual high-horse that things like the inquisition, slavery, and ubiquitous "leviathan" mindset of oppressive religions and regimes of past seem like barbaric and archaic mindsets and societal standards. We look back, and are appalled that it was actually normal for a feudal lord to legally take a woman's virginity on her honeymoon night. What's fascinating, and in retrospect quite crazy is that to THEM it was NORMAL. Surely, we have overcome all of our psychological and sociological demons? This is the "End of Man" fallacy, that, since we have an inundation of junk consumerism and elections, that our stance as humankind has somehow reached its pinnacle. Of course, looking back, we realize those crazy ideologies were nothing more than an agreed-upon status quo and psychological constructs. And of course, there are no facts, only interpretations of facts, and the narrative of the winners and "PR" thereof.
    So, what does history tell us about the present? That WE have ridiculous, crazy constructs that we, in an almost dreamlike way, call normal, and most of us don't realize it (surely the masses of the past didn't question their realities?).
    So, if we can envision a true "End of Man" scenario- perhaps the teleological culmination of a dialectical societal evolution- what would this hypothetically perfect future society see, when they look at the history of the early 21st century, as insane psychological constructs?
    Perhaps it will be our joke of an election system? Or Jersey Shore? Or the fact planned obsolescence takes precedence over durability at the expense of finite resources? Or the oligarchy of banksters that we kid ourselves are the quintessence of the best economic system? You decide.
  • Jan 31 2012: Hi Kim,

    We all see history through the prism of our own experiences. I agree with you in that history often serves as a mirror for ourselves. (A great analogy, I wish I had thought of it. Thanks to Barbara Tuchman.)

    At it's best, history is the story of ourselves. How people have dealt with the problems and challenges of human existance. It's something that we can study and learn from.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
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    Jan 30 2012: Look at little children and you see your answer.