Can we use the negative aspects across the history of human records to reassure ourselves?
July has been a particularly woeful month. From the top of my head I can reel off a sinister list: ISIS burning a family to death (including a 2-year-old girl) in Mosul Iraq, the attempted Turkish Coup, the Nice Terror attacks, a spate of terrorist incidents across Germany, and the intensification of racial tensions in the US with the Baton Rouge, and Dallas shootings of police officers.
Fair enough – just recalling these events again is depressing. I don’t blame you if you’ve already clicked off this post. But wait.
I’m going to put forward the case that we can reside in the fact that there has always been existential threats to humanity, but in the main, the good has prevailed. We can’t see ourselves as living in a radically different era from our predecessors. Violence is endemic to history. One could even say history is the history of violence.
What we are experiencing today is a growing awareness of the scale of international violence that goes on a day to day basis. We are now able to educate ourselves on events spanning all corners of the world, which of course are often toxic. When Wahabbism swept across the Arabian peninsula, costing the lives of many ‘non-believers’, it did not taint the worldview of those in say, Scandinavia, or Lima, or Reading. Conversely, the Crusades saw violence on such a mass scale against Islam, it threatened the whole Muslim population, Shia and Sunni, in the Middle-East.
Perhaps it is naive and ignorant to believe that our current existence is somehow novel, departing from a recent history of peace and tranquility.
July HAS been a particularly bad month, but that should not hamper our view that in the grand course of history we are living in some of the most peaceful times ever. We should not allow ourselves to fall into a trap whereby an atrocity, a bad month, or a bad year significantly alters our perception of where our era stands. If you were to take a step back now and see the whole course of history laid down in a neat timeline, you would see our current as one defined by its comparative non-violence.
Now these words aren’t enough to comfort the grieving mother of one of the Syrian children killed in a hospital after an ISIS raid.
But studying history (as I have) is what we need for us to access our less agitated states. Reading history allows us to realise that if a society is in trouble, it is not fatal.
Anyway, cheer up its all good (*writing as a privileged white-male in the West*). Here’s a potato.