There is no horror from the past we cannot aggrandize in our cultural blindness. I’m not here to insist that Americans are the only blind people in the world. However, knowing that blindness is a pan human condition regardless of the sightedness or lack thereof in any person of any people does not lessen the effects of said blindness. Is there anything knew anywhere; has there ever been at any time in any past, whatever history we examine–really historiography. I’m of the mind that history happens irrespective of who writes the historiography. One is not the other.
I’m not with Hegel entirely. I don’t avoid Hegel because of his subsequent use by Marx and Marxists. I, in fact, avoid entertaining Marx too seriously because of Hegel’s historicism, particularly his making any Constitution an extension of the State rather than that of the people, the latter the one institution that can oppose or counterpose the State, the one institution with enough weight? density? to counterbalance that weight/force the State imposes on the people. States can do this in a number of ways, but the most effective way is for the State to transform the people into a public, always this by choice of the people. The State manages choices, making abdication of one’s people-ness/personhood for the slightly more secure or lucrative membership as one of the public a virtual necessity.
I am not one to believe that the Social Sciences are or can be made like the hard sciences; sociology, political science or the discipline of history is not chemistry or Astrophysics, no matter how deluded practitioners become about how their methodologies are scientific and not artistic. Positivism, for instance is an assertion by philosophers that Philosophy should become more like these social sciences that had convinced themselves they should become more like the hard sciences. This, as I have asserted, is absurd to begin with, but to have been continued and asserted as if true is even more grandiose than the 19th century intellectual declaring the death of religion or that Western Civilization is no longer Christian. Denying the metaphysical hegemony of Christianity, I think, was premature, as premature or immature as declaring the possibility of turning the arts and humanities into sciences.
This belief in the possibility of making philosophy more like science, or to make it a science, is part of the 20th century’s intellectual orgy in anti-humanism–a feeding frenzy by the sharks of cultural iconoclasm? And we do have to see the great currents of anti-humanism along with anti-Christian philosophies on the rise in the twentieth century continuing into the current one –and to better understand where I am getting this notion, let me say that in Italy, for instance, when a man chooses to become/be an Atheist, he becomes one in only the way a former Catholic could be, and to look at Italian communism and how it stood in opposition to Soviet Russian communism, much more savage in its nihilism and anti-Christian atheism, is to understand how the traditional metaphysics of Catholicism permeates Italian mentality even in the minds of criminals. Yes, even the evil in Italy is Catholic. This is why I assert that Catholicism is a civilization, with all a civilizations multiplicity and complexity, both exerting an influence on behavior.
We have to understand how disingenuous the Positivists were, and Wittgenstein applauding Kierkegaard is ironic, because the Great Dane would have abhorred him. Philosophy and political science are as close to science as fucking a groundhog to forecast the weather is. The loss of faith in Humanism and the arts has left us with a dearth of incomprehensible social science even in literature departments; it has also left our human lives at the mercy of one mechanization of living, not in the sense that there are technologies at our disposal or that machines are made to help us, but in helping to shape the mentality of peoples in their attitudes and behavior toward people. Anti-humanism is hand in hand with totalitarian slaughter, totalitarian order, control, brutality, management, ideology . . . what else have we to express just where the over sociologizing of society’s management and administration has left us.
History is a river, history is an ocean with tides and currents, history is a cosmos expanding, not into something, but in itself as itself–there is no future place for history to pour itself into. All time is one; all history is one; we perceive history in ages, epochs, centuries, years, as we do time. Past, present and future are illusions and no amount of delusion about them is going to make them scientific. Whether these metaphors are helpful or not, I am not going to decide. I will not herein entertain a definition of history and how it differs from historiography or historicism. History for all people infers recorded time. I posit this simplistic reference with historiography. Again, history is what happens irrespective of who writes history or if the history ever gets written or recorded in some other fashion. So, history may or may not be historiographic, but historiography is linked with history. History has a lot in common with archaeology, which means it cannot dispense with empirically derived conclusions if it is going to maintain the greatest possible veracity in its observations and conclusions, if it is going to maintain itself as good humanism, as a valid and viable expression of humanity as one of the humanities.
With respect for time and its passage in what we call history, let me say that there has never been any generation in our history–America’s history–more contempo-centric than this one. But again, even if there were other ages more contempo-centric than ours, it would not lessen how much so we are currently. The beam in my own eye does not remove the mote in my neighbors eye, or vice-versa. A corrective must be applied. We are in need of a revised vision of our Selves, our society and its position in the world, in history, in the continuum we imagine time to be.
Ours has become virtually the only time, but every age has some sense that its age is the best or the worst of all ages that have ever been. A sense of the past, a sense of proportion about the past has gone the way of believing that we can uncover the truth about things, or that there is a Truth, both transcendent and absolute. We no longer believe in the possibility of objectivity, therefore we only assert one subjectivity after another and another and so on in a petty pace of the solipsist spinning his wheels.
The thing about our age is that we also imagine we are the zenith of forever; that all future ages are dependent on us, and this has arisen simultaneously with a severing from all past contingencies or continuums. We are iconoclastic as we have never been before, while we each discover our own personal Sinai to ascend and descend, complete with each one of us carrying his own tablets, his own commandments.
A new intellectual hegemony has been won by those who have revised the past in order to justify their present, much the way Czar Ivan had chroniclers revise Russian history to justify the Romanov dynasty. This was not new then; it is not new now. Ignorance and degraded literacy has gone a long way to bolstering this tendency. Multiculturalism has not offended less in the ways of its own authoritarian models for reform.
Ignorance is literally to ignore, and no one ignores the past more than we do. There has been no generation in any age more in love with the moment now than ours. Even Whitman seemingly gives credence to this excessive American desire to own the present. Doesn’t he declare that there is no more time than now in Song of Myself. I don’t mean to belittle Whitman; Walt is not reinforcing tempo-centrism any more than Sylvia Plath was romanticizing suicide.
Ours has become the great displacement of the past, and in as much as we are the guardians of the future, we have made the future now. This is interesting from a culture that has abandoned the metaphysics of Truth because it finds the idea of transcendence absurd. The future has become current for us, and believing, for better or for ill, that our choices irrevocably affect all time until the end of time has lead us to a couple of false notions. This belief has brought about for us either castrating fear or a hubris as grandiose as any in antiquity that brought Divine Retribution at the hands of Nemesis. Forgive my preference for literary analogies, they suit me and they do suit word to action and action to word.