Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advantages and disadvantages of reading history

I probably read more American history books than in any other field. I try to figure out what makes my country tick. There are advantages and disadvantages in doing this.

Advantages: not much is new. There is a certain comfort in this actually. We haven't gone crazy. We've always been crazy. At the same time, humanistic and progressive energies have always been around to improve the lot of the downtrodden. This can be inspirational. Some things do get better, if very slowly.

Disadvantages: We haven't gone crazy. We've always been crazy. There's a certain big picture that doesn't seem to change at all. Soldiers could be butchers in The Iliad, too. Worse, though, is to learn the facts of history don't support the myth of our history. We are brainwashed and lied to as a matter of course. Another advantage: in this country, at least, there is the opportunity to find these things out. It's not always easy, and it may be getting harder, but the facts of history are available.

What would a society be like that actually owned up to its past behavior, its history? I can't imagine it.

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

― James JoyceUlysses
A nightmare: intrusive, unwanted, unpleasant, fantasy.
nightmares plural
  1. A frightening or unpleasant dream
    • I had nightmares after watching the horror movie
  2. A terrifying or very unpleasant experience or prospect
    • the nightmare of racial hatred
    • an astronaut's worst nightmare is getting detached during an extravehicle activity
  3. A person, thing, or situation that is very difficult to deal with.
What would a society be like that awoke from its history? What is an individual like? I think the latter is what Norman Brown was getting at in Love's Body.

I think it's what CJ struggles with in my recent fiction.

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