In Search of a History
by Richard Hiatt
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History suddenly became a "taxing" (hence dangerous, hence necessarily "irrelevant") experience according to political activists honing the new contours of political correctness and who thought anything other than a pop psychology (gestalt therapy) approach to everything was "un-cool" and contrary to the edicts of militantism and civil rights. The prevailing zeitgeist demanded that anyone over thirty couldnt be trusted, making "dead white males" in perukes, jabots and redingotes the target of the only brand of racial/sexual slurring allowed on campus.
With the loss of history came the loss of any identifying
moral compass. Still, our most esteemed educators decided to deprioritize it according to the pressures of political correctness - even while confronting the dilemma of students needing a story-line with which to configure a personal sense of place, time and being.
The fallout from that was that "making judgments" and "formulating opinions" (a natural outcome of narrative teaching) became taboo within the zeitgeist being orchestrated by activist, "liberal" (?) minority, coalition groups whose sole function (and achievement) has been censorship in its every form--especially regarding free expression. And what was a school at any level without free expression?
So, minus the narrative we were left in an existential
void while ensuring that no one got "offended" about anything (fearing lawsuits). As the only remaining recourse today we turn to the mass media (weightless images and rebus arrays) to tell us who we are and which require nothing back except the duty of ritual observance. Continuity and/or cause and effect have been devalued. We're thrown into an eternal "now" where trigger words, catchphrases, doublespeak and ready-made clichés fail to connect with any context over six months old (or three minutes old). What was once narrative becomes montage, or subway graffiti, while the residue of verbal communication (syntax, grammar) is arranged like a series of flashcards or billboards; i.e., nothing follows from anything else.
Even on a legal scale the effect has been cumulative. There
is no unified field of moral law lending the feeling of progress or improvement. We have instead lots of little laws and warnings, all reactive, defensive, disjunctive, forced to fill in blanks that surface faster than courts can fill them. So we again yield to tabloid trends and chic facades, courtesy of Planet Hollywood or CNN, on how to socialize, interact and react to everything from to campaign finance to sexual orientation. Jerry Springer and Entertainment Tonight dictate the styles of acceptable social/legal/moral intercourse.
The consequences of denying ourselves the benefit
of historical fact are grave and profound on yet another level - particularly today in what is fast becoming the global village - if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past (barbarism, fascism, desecration, slavery).
John Adams said, "There never was a democracy that
did not commit suicide." Aristotle said that governments follow a predictable evolution like the changing seasons - monarchy falling to despotism, despotism falling to democracy, democracy falling to anarchy, anarchy falling to monarchy. And today, failing to recognize the signs of history, we stand before the dangers of repetition in the wake of a floundering (200-year) experiment in a democratic-free market form of government.
In One World, Ready or Not, William Greider warns
that the current fundamental stalemate between the social sphere and the economic sphere is dangerous. He quotes economic historian Karl Polanyi who said, "Fascism ...was rooted in a market system that refused to function." In the 1920s the symptoms were clear: "the spread of irrationalistic philosophies, racialist esthetics, anticapitalistic demagoguery, heterodox currency views, criticism of the party system, widespread disparagement of the regime."
...the vast bulk of pro-fascist literature comes from the US, not Europe...
Copyright © 1998 Richard Hiatt. All rights reserved.