Viewed in terms of recorded history, the story of humankind is an incomprehensible welter of empires and wars, kings and presidents, revolutions and nations. Viewed in terms of human evolution however, a basic arc begins to emerge through the smoke.
We aren’t too close to what is happening in our age to see the larger patterns of human history and evolution. Is “human history moving inexorably toward self-destruction,” as many highly educated people believe? Is just our age hopeless? Or can we see the way ahead and work for it, whether the breakthrough occurs at this point or not?
These, I submit, are the core questions. Though I have some tentative insights, I really don’t know. But I’m sure that when ‘professional philosophers’ ask readers “how would you draw history?” you know they have no insights of their own.
The same academic philosopher, writing for the old media, feebly says, “The philosophy of history is a seductive project because, among other things, it seems to promise an understanding—even an approximate one—of what might happen next.”
That completely misses the point. History is not some perverse force of nature, an overwhelming influence of the past shaping the present and future. It is the result of the collective actions of people through the ages.
Since the beginning of writing and civilizations, people’s idea of where things are headed was essential to building in the present and future. However the power of ideas in the past has become the imperative of insight in our age.
Therefore our insights in the present into the movement of human history are essential to the events that will transpire in the years and even months ahead.
The second basic premise is the difference between prediction and the way ahead. Prediction almost always assumes separation, a man or woman standing apart from history and seeing “what might happening next.” On the other hand, seeing the way ahead is inherently participatory.
All the great empires (great in the conventional sense of the word—large and powerful) had a compelling vision of where they were headed and what they were trying to build. In the past, as in the present, brute force was the sine qua non. Nonetheless, everyone from king to lowliest subject knew, or thought knew, where the empire was headed.
As illusory as that was, we post-moderns have completely lost this sense of collective purpose. That’s one reason why attempts to reaffirm the American Empire ring very hollow and fall on barren ground. No one truly believes that Trump can “make America great again.” His followers like the spectacle, as well as poking a finger in the eye of the liberals and Democrats that they believe have marginalized and look down on them.
A much more important factor is that human history, indeed the evolution of consciousness, has moved on. We’re not just seeing the last of the Republicans; we are the last of the Mohicans.
It’s important to realize that for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years, there was no such thing as history. Stone technology changed slowly if at all, and culture, whatever it actually was, was defined by the survival of small groups of people eking out a crude and rude living from the land.
The idea of human progress is very recent, growing out of the misnomer called the Enlightenment, when reason purportedly replaced belief and superstition. In recent years, gradual progress has been replaced by rapid regress, as man (and I use the word advisedly) fragments the Earth and brings about climate change and the Sixth Extinction.
Instead of seeking and asking the right questions about what is happening to humanity however, mainstream columnists write nonsense like, “Just as the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution made it easy for Karl Marx to propagate his “Communist Manifesto,” so the Information Revolution has given populists the perfect medium for getting their message out.”
That’s absurdly superficial and wrongheaded. There is no comparison between Marx and Trump. Though I think the Communist Manifesto is rubbish, it is a well thought out philosophy of human history. Trump has no philosophy at all, just the impulses, reactions and needs of an arrested child-man who has reached the pinnacle of American power through forces the vast majority of progressives refuse to examine.
Human history has to include human evolution, the great anomaly of nature. Yet scientists have perpetrated an enormous philosophical falsehood in the last three decades.
Nature unfolds in seamless wholeness. Rather than focus on the question of how we humans, who evolved in nature, could be fragmenting the Earth to the breaking point, scientists have tried to blur the line, saying things like, “We are bio-identical, and nature’s elements and patterns are just like our own.” That New Age appropriated nonsense has greatly contributed to our present impasse.
As technology has increased, fragmentation has increased. The problem isn’t technology however; it is that our consciousness has remained the same for tens of thousands of years. The way ahead is conscious psychological revolution. Whether it occurs in this Dark Age or not, it is the future of humanity.