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bludog

The History Of The Future And The Future Of Liberalism

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For the first time in history, the everyday lives of normal people are being recorded on social media.  Sites like Facebook, Instagram and Google have become mediums for ordinary people to express and record the details of their lives;  Their greatest hopes and worst fears.

 

Up to now history was presented, overwhelmingly from the point of view of the most affluent and powerful males.  Since literacy was far more prevalent among the highborn than commoners, most of what historians have been able to uncover about ordinary lives, comes from archeological evidence like preserved skeletons, clothing and other artifacts.

 

So history is skewed;  largely over-representing the wealthy and powerful.  But now, all that is changed.  Historians of the future will have a record of the past allowing them to document the little people as well as the most powerful movers and shakers.  Going forward, ordinary people's wants, needs, desires and resentments will, presumably receive far more attention in recorded history   Is it possible that this will lead to a new level of liberalism?

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In the 1800s, for almost the first time, fiction writers like Victor Hugo, Dickens , Nekrasov, Herzen and Tolstoy depicted the lives of commoners, in a sympathetic way.  They helped lay the groundwork for a new liberalism that led to the French and American Revolutions and representation for, even the poor, in government.  We have now entered an entirely different period, in which ordinary people get to help shape public policy.  And unlike in the past, ordinary people are routinely depicted in fiction and speak for themselves on social media.

 

The current right wing regression in the US, Brazil, the Philippines, and parts of Europe may, very well, be a temporary trend.  Because, if we are to judge by broad social movements of the last 300 years or so, the more ordinary people are publicized the more liberal society gets.

 

 

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18 hours ago, bludog said:

Up to now history was presented, overwhelmingly from the point of view of the most affluent and powerful

 

So history is skewed;  largely over-representing the wealthy and powerful.

 

For historians, I doubt if the overall focus of history will be any different.  The proletariat will continue to primarily be studied as a group while those who accomplish something extraordinary will be singled out for detailed individual analysis.  

 

It's more about what a person does, rather than their wealth.   How much focus will future historians spend on people who live ordinary, mundane, and let's face it...boring...lives?   Homeless people will be studied as a group while Elon Musk will be studied as a person.  No historian will ever care what I did, but Donald Trump will be studied for a very long time.  No number of Facebook posts about my "wants needs and desires" will change that.  

 

16 hours ago, bludog said:

ordinary people are routinely depicted in fiction

...

the more ordinary people are publicized the more liberal society gets

 

Which is cause and which is effect?  Maybe liberalism has caused the shift instead of the other way around?  Even when writing about their contemporaries, artists and historians of the past focused on rich and powerful people.  How much of Shakespeare's work is about kings, queens, and noblemen?   Surely writers have had plenty of information about the lives of everyday people, yet they chose to focus elsewhere. 

 

Viewpoints do change.  Even the facts change.  To paraphrase Yogi Berra, history ain't what it used to be.  The history my grandkids learn is not the history I learned.  I suspect that their grandchildren will learn yet another history.  Who knows how our lives will be interpreted by the future?  Even with all the information we leave behind, I deeply doubt they'll understand what it was like to live in this time.  We will be judged by standards that have not yet been written.

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On 5/7/2019 at 7:18 AM, Renegade said:

How much of Shakespeare's work is about kings, queens, and noblemen? 

 

Most of it.  Shakespeare, for all his greatness, originality and talent, was consistently traditional in choice of characters to populate his works.  Before the Renaissance, virtually no writer paid much attention to ordinary people.  But beginning in the fifteen hundreds, writers concentrating on the common people began to show up.  Victor Hugo, Dickens , Nekrasov, Herzen and Tolstoy began, for the first time, depicting the lives of commoners, in a sympathetic way.  And fiction writers as diverse as  Charlotte Bronte, Dostoevsky, HG Wells,  Johnathan Swift, and a host of others, increasingly used commoners for their characters.   Before 1500, using ordinary people as fictional characters was rare.  But after that, it became increasingly more common until, today, the practice is legion.

 

On 5/7/2019 at 7:18 AM, Renegade said:

It's more about what a person does, rather than their wealth.

 

Undeniably true.  But it's rare that those of modest means change history, and when they do, it's even rarer for them not to become extraordinarily wealthy.

 

On 5/7/2019 at 7:18 AM, Renegade said:

How much focus will future historians spend on people who live ordinary, mundane, and let's face it...boring...lives? 

 

Don't underrate yourself.  I, for one, don't find my own life boring;  Or those around me.  In fact, families, neighbors and friends are usually intensely interested in each other. 

 

The historically recent genre of Soap Operas, are very popular.  Another category is reality shows which document (or some approximation) everything from police work, to adventurers, to miners and otherwise typical people with occupations,that interest others.  Next, there are literally hundreds of thousands of books and online portraits of everyday people who others find fascinating.   And the numbers of fiction works about typical people who lead interesting lives, probably number in the millions.

 

On 5/7/2019 at 7:18 AM, Renegade said:

For historians, I doubt if the overall focus of history will be any different.  The proletariat will continue to primarily be studied as a group while those who accomplish something extraordinary will be singled out for detailed individual analysis.  

 

There is increasing interest by historians in ordinary lives, as opposed to the lives of leaders.

History From Below

Quote

<snip>

A people's history, or history from below,[1] is a type of historical narrative which attempts to account for historical events from the perspective of common people rather than leaders. There is an emphasis on disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor, the nonconformists, and otherwise marginal groups.

<snip>

This revisionist approach to writing history is in direct opposition to methods which tend to emphasize single great figures in history, referred to as the Great Man theory; it argues that the driving factor of history is the daily life of ordinary people, their social status and profession. These are the factors that "push and pull" on opinions and allow for trends to develop, as opposed to great people introducing ideas or initiating events.

<snip>

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People's_history

 

A good example such a work is Howard Zinn's A People's History Of The United States, which was a runner-up for the National Book Award in1980.  In it, Zinn:

A People's History of the United States

Quote

<snip>

presented what he considered to be a different side of history from the more traditional "fundamental nationalist glorification of country".[1] Zinn portrays a side of American history that can largely be seen as the exploitation and manipulation of the majority by rigged systems that hugely favor a small aggregate of elite rulers from across the orthodox political parties.

<snip>

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_People's_History_of_the_United_States

 

Such a work was unheard of before the modern era.  It was politically influential.  And it was written from a liberal point of view which would have been impossible without the groundwork laid by those who went before.

 

On 5/7/2019 at 7:18 AM, Renegade said:

Viewpoints do change.  Even the facts change.  To paraphrase Yogi Berra, history ain't what it used to be.  The history my grandkids learn is not the history I learned.  I suspect that their grandchildren will learn yet another history.  Who knows how our lives will be interpreted by the future?  Even with all the information we leave behind, I deeply doubt they'll understand what it was like to live in this time.  We will be judged by standards that have not yet been written.

 

Yogi was a witty fellow, who will be remembered far beyond his baseball career.  Of course no one knows what will happen down the road of time and it is impossible to determine "how our lives will be interpreted by the future".   But based on the evidence, my own personal guess is that, in the broad movement of history, liberalism will become more pronounced.  And history will increasingly focus less on famous men and women but more on causative social movements and the often fascinating individuals who participated in them.

 

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On 5/6/2019 at 11:28 AM, bludog said:

For the first time in history, the everyday lives of normal people are being recorded on social media.  Sites like Facebook, Instagram and Google have become mediums for ordinary people to express and record the details of their lives;  Their greatest hopes and worst fears.

 

Up to now history was presented, overwhelmingly from the point of view of the most affluent and powerful males.  Since literacy was far more prevalent among the highborn than commoners, most of what historians have been able to uncover about ordinary lives, comes from archeological evidence like preserved skeletons, clothing and other artifacts.

 

So history is skewed;  largely over-representing the wealthy and powerful.  But now, all that is changed.  Historians of the future will have a record of the past allowing them to document the little people as well as the most powerful movers and shakers.  Going forward, ordinary people's wants, needs, desires and resentments will, presumably receive far more attention in recorded history   Is it possible that this will lead to a new level of liberalism?

Possibly, or possibly it is a white muted noise that destroys creativity sending them, those in it into a dark age. When everybody uses it, does it bring them more equality? Does it bring to them a new freedom? You mentioned the billionaires it creates. The few have more power, and yes, we can now look upon the average, or the less than average years and years later, 

but still not suss out precisely what went wrong.

 

The same could be said about the written word once upon a time. But as you say, back when it first came about only those at the top could participate. Is today's communication liberalism or is it something completely different since it can be co opted or diverted, controlled, or could it possibly undercut the lives of those who utilize it, making them lazy, and less in touch with their own reality. Are they living to support the technology and not much else?

The billionaires would wonder about this since they could hold so much power and even if they meant well, they were only the 1 percent. 

 

Did people get smarter, more aware of their own political interests, or did they not?

 

Or would it take another 500 years for a new Renaissance to begin?

 

The Dark Ages, are we heading straight for the Dark Ages again? I had a professor in college almost thirty years ago who thought the answer was yes. I was a young kid and I really disagreed vehemently. But he said, the saturation of technology isn't changing the outcome of a lot of poverty in many places around the world like one would presume it should. At least not on the scale that measures outcomes. 

 

More gun violence. More folks have at least some food, less wars, but still war. Higher inequality. More apathy. More political division. In many ways much less competition and even fewer voices that can be heard. 

But what will they dig up past the mountains of plastic trash in their archaeological digs someday in the future other than remorse? One word, Pokemon. 

 

Peace!

 

 

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On 5/11/2019 at 8:05 PM, TheOldBarn said:

But he said, the saturation of technology isn't changing the outcome of a lot of poverty in many places around the world like one would presume it should. At least not on the scale that measures outcomes.  

 

For most of the history of humankind, nomadic clans hunted and gathered, following the game.  Farming and herding first began, about 12,000 years ago, at latest estimate, allowing permanent settlement and the accumulation of non-portable goods;  And elaborate buildings/monuments.  A new experiment started for life on Earth. 

 

About 250 years ago, the Industrial Revolution upped the ante, considerably.  There have been many flowerings of civilization, followed by darker periods.  We humans have been incredibly clever and adaptable in conquering the natural environment.  Which has made many of us blind to the problems our success is causing in the natural world. 

 

The Flip Side Of The OP:

Up to now, humankind appears unable to shake group loyalty in favor of the common good.  Devotion to religious superstitions and demagogue-approved self-aggrandizement supersedes practical considerations which have now become crucial for the survival of civilization as we know it ...  Perhaps the continuance of the human species.

 

Although eager to accept the labor-saving appliances, leaps of transportation and mass entertainment that science makes possible, too many people are distrustful of science itself and prefer to place their trust in demagogues.   Humans, as a group, appear to lack the foresight to address massive, long-term problems, like nuclear stockpiles and global warming.  We have conquered the environment and our adaptability seems to end there. 

 

If humankind cannot go beyond sculpting the environment for its own convenience;  And start taking action on the problems that our stupendous success is causing;  There will surely be another dark age, at the very least.

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