First, dear students, I want to congratulate you for opting to be in my history class. Sadly emphasis on computers and science courses, have edged out study and contemplation of our history.
History, to put in a nutshell, is collective human memory. A person without his individual memory will be diagnosed with having amnesia. Likewise a society without a living sense of its own history, will either be inching towards extinction or rotting from inside.
So a healthy approach is to season our present with generous sprinkling of our past.
In your first class, here then, are 7 lessons that churning of history of any culture throw up. These lessons are as old as grandmas world view and as fresh as a toddlers doodle.
1) All history is an actual past recounted with a survivor bias. It is an account of a murder that the jury members who were not present there, agree upon. Mostly it is a narrative crafted by winners and survivors and hence it is often their perspective on bygone events . It is like Amitabh Bachchan’s biographer writing on Hindi film industry or a Pele’s fan blog account of the football world.
2) Time changes, sands shift, empires crumble. Immortality has a shorter shelf life than longevity. Contrary to whatever any one claims, time undermines everyone and everything. From this perspective history is often a fable of time challenging tall claims and always winning the bet.
3) Progress happens not by design but by statistics. In short run everybody is dead but in long run everybody lives longer. This means it is not by action of one person or any culture that humans have evolved but by random chaotic averaging of the race as a whole. We are individually stupid but collectively wise.
4) All of todays revolutions are tomorrows bureaucracy. The road to power for any new king, leader or ideology is traversed by call to arms while the castle of power is always retained by show of arms.
5) Tyrants rule. Just kings rule. Mediocres rule. In corridors of power, morality is a middle class argument. In other words just model of the world is middle class fiction. People do not get what they deserve but what they get away with.
6) Ruling elite are by vision, short sighted. In trying to man their courtyards they are blind to the gathering storm outside their doors. For rulers, an unexpected dagger, a random fall, a concealed treachery are always a possibility hence they talk global but always act local.
7) This world is an ongoing conspiracy of compliance. Freedom to common people comes in micro installments after mega struggles. From physical punishment for obedience to mental games for manufacturing consent, they have always been beset with empires who thrive on teaching them helplessness. Man is born free. Rulers in each era must forge new chains to tame them.
Finally last lesson of history is that people never learn any lesson from history.