Sunday, July 08, 2018

A Preference for World History over U.S. History

From my earliest recollections of studying history in school, I preferred World History. It must have been in what is now called middle school that I first encountered the history of China and, more broadly,  Asia. I'm sure the accounts we got of the dynasties in China were simplistic; but I do recall loving the art we learned about, and the mystical paintings of singular sages climbing the heights of mountains for a wiser, more encompassing view. 

In high school I loved European history and took a special class that showed us the English perspective on the American Revolution. The course was a revelation and taught me at a fairly young age that history is subjective to a degree few realize.

Shen Zhou (1427 – 1509)
Period: Ming Dynasty
Also in European History, I studied the French Revolution, learning how quickly governments can transform. I wrote a paper on The Directory and how the revolutionary government of France became the empire of Napoleon.
Naturally I took courses in U.S. History and in Georgia History. From early on I despised them both for the treacherous treatment and lying treaties our leaders made with Native Americans. Georgia history bored me to tears. I was outraged by the maltreatment of slaves as well. When it came to the U.S. and Mexico, the takeover and ultimate annexation of Texas, the war with Mexico, and the seizure of most of the West were all despicable. I don't recall the attitude of the teachers, but they must have let us react as we chose as we read of all the atrocities. I thought Andrew Jackson to be the vilest of the presidents, and I still place him right there with DT as an egotistical bigot. 
Elizabeth "Betsy" Brown Stephens (1903), a Cherokee Indian who walked the Trail of Tears in 1838
I am not taken aback by the atrocities we are now committing. The good presidents and other leaders who have cared about the poor or shown humanitarian values are the exception, not the rule. Humans are cruel and selfish, even when it comes to their own well-being. Religion is no exception. To the contrary, some of the worst atrocities in human history have taken place because of religion. Artists and philosophers have given us visions of peace and love, of a higher value than selfishness; but face the truth: very few people are genuine artists or philosophers. Plato's Republic was an ideal, never realized.To hope for utopias is futile. Aristotle was incorrect when he said that the distinguishing characteristic of humans is that they are rational. 
For thousands of years the wisest and most perceptive, creative people have given us visions of compassion, peace, love for others, civilization at its best. For thousands of years those visions have been rejected by corrupt leaders and even by the people themselves. Now, as never before, the Earth itself is under attack, along with all life on the planet. But humans are just too limited in their mental capacities to see the truth, much less do anything about it. While the peaceful choose the way of "Don't worry, be happy," the way of the three monkeys who refuse to acknowledge evil, the cruel, greedy ones increase their destruction. Like Loki, they undermine everything of value, the paradise that could have been. It is not the eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that sealed our doom; it is the will to ignorance, the stubborn refusal to know. The sin is not eating the apple, or the fig. The sin is refusing to eat it.

Buddha attained enlightenment beneath the fig tree.