Monday, September 11, 2023


It's an oft repeated truism that we constantly run the risk of ignoring the lessons of history. Yet what exactly are these lessons?

Perhaps the one we ignore most of all is that all of the ideas that we use to understand our own world are over-simplistic. Almost as soon as historians take them and use them to analyse what happened in the past they discover that they are, to a greater or lesser extent, inadequate.

Take European society in the post-feudal era. It's rather easy to blame capitalism for some of the damaging social changes leading to both mass paupersisation and political turmoil in the nineteenth century, and by capitalism we tend to mean ethically-challenged rich people. And it is true that many landlords seized on the opportunity to assert private ownership on land that had previously been held communally or at least within a system of reciprocal rights, yet it is also true that in some regions it was the peasants themselves who drove this march towards a 'liberal' market economy against the conservative resistance of the landowners.

Another lesson of history, sadly, is that as a society we usually decide whether our ideas are good or bad based on their consequences.

Puberty blockers may be either harmless or harmful, but there is almost no point in people who believe the latter sacrificing themselves to the baying mob until enough time has elapsed for us all to see how much suffering they may have caused. It's like pissing into the wind. Human beings so rarely change course based on reason alone before the disincentives kick in properly.

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