“ONE OUGHT ALWAYS TO BE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY:” The 21st century left has quite a schizophrenic relationship with the concept of history, don’t they? It’s a very different relationship than that of midcentury liberals, who had their own concept of “Whig history,” and teaching that all of history, including the Founding Fathers, set the stage for Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, the New Deal, and America’s victory in WWII.
In contrast, today’s far left views virtually all history until the arrival of Kennedy, Martin Luther King and the Beatles as little more than a non-stop series of brutal oppressions, ugly stuff that’s hardly worth learning, and famously dubbed “Black Armband History,” by Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey. The effect renders virtually all western history prior to about 1962 as original sin, with the left rejecting every historic figure from Christ to Columbus to the Founding Fathers as each being uniquely destructive individuals.
(And they’re slowly turning on their own. QED, Princeton students’ recent attack on Woodrow Wilson, once seen as such a vital linchpin of “Progressivism,” his racism, brutal crackdowns on free speech, and indeed much of the domestic history of America during WWI were largely expunged from classroom study, a real-life version of Woody Allen’s gag in Sleeper about Nixon being airbrushed from history.)
And yet, simultaneously, as Brendan O’Neill writes at Spiked, in an essay titled “History Begins,” in recent years, the left has weaponized history, in the form of the cliché frequently uttered by Mr. Obama to demonize the other side of the aisle when and if they dared challenge his policies as being “on the ‘wrong’ side of history,” as if history was a quasi-religion like the Force in Star Wars, with a good side and a dark side:
What ends up happening is that history, in the objectified and even weaponised sense it is understood today, becomes the enemy of history-making. History is conjured up to counter change, to weaken and dilute the very urge to make history. 2016 has made this clear. It has confirmed a profound fear of change among the West’s intellectual and political classes, which look upon Brexit and Trump and other events with an extraordinary sense of dread. They fear in particular for the standing of the Third Way, of what they view as the stability conferred on Western affairs by the wrapping up of the Cold War and the winding down of the historical political conflict of left vs right. In their eyes, that was history’s greatest achievement — history being the bestower of occasional fortunes — and now a more vengeful history threatens it, and threatens to unleash uncertainty, violence and possibly fascism. So they marshal history, objectified history and its warnings and threats, against change, against the making of history, against human agency. History becomes, not Marx’s ‘activity of man pursuing his aims’, but a check on the activity of man. It becomes a means of questioning and slowing man’s activity and thinking and choices. History becomes the controller of men, and a warning against change.
In this situation, it is imperative that we argue against history, against history as power. That we rage against it, in fact. The wonderful thing about 2016 has been its rekindling of the historical imagination. Vast numbers of people, using their intelligence and will, decided to impact on history. To strip away a temporary institution that had been naturalised by the elite as the normal and historically correct way of doing politics: the EU. And to deliver a salvo against an American establishment that presumed its way of politics is the only way of politics. People said, ‘There must be an alternative’, and in doing so they thought and acted historically, upon history.
As O’Neill writes, “in 2017, do not heed ‘history’; challenge it. Challenge the dead lessons dredged up by a new political, expert and history class keen to correct our estimation of ourselves as the potential makers of history. Use the ‘daring, courage, imagination and idealism’ that technocracy has sought to decommission, and think and act historically. One ought always to be on the wrong side of history.”
Read the whole thing.
(Via Kathy Shaidle.)