|Slag bij Ter Heijde by Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraten (Source)|
So, rather at loose ends and just having finished reading a book, I cast about for something else to read. While there is a plethora of reading material here at Chez Sarge, nothing struck my fancy. So I headed out, to either the library or to a book store. The library, while much closer, has an issue with parking.
For the library sits downtown on the main drag (not called Main Street incidentally but Hope Street) and parking on a nice Saturday (which it was) can sometimes not be had for love nor money. It's a problem with old New England towns. The main streets were laid out in the horse and carriage days when only the wealthier folks could actually afford time away from the day to day drudgery of life to actually go someplace. At least that's how I see it.
Anyhoo, it was down to Barnes & Noble where I thought to perhaps acquire some Niven and Pournelle. They had one frigging book and it was way overpriced for the size of the volume. I shall not pay $10 for a 150 page novel. No matter who wrote it.
But I did see, in the historical section, another book by Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand. Now Mr. Philbrick is a superb historian and makes history come alive through his writing. (I've read two other of his books, The Heart of the Sea and Bunker Hill, both of which I devoured.) How could I not want to read his take on the Battle of the Little Big Horn? (The Greasy Grass fight as it's known to some folks.)
The introduction sealed the deal. He relates history both to the time in which it occurred and to the times which come after. History doesn't occur in a vacuum. While years later people like myself read about historical events, for the people who experienced the event it's something they never forget, provided they survive. What they went through can echo down through generations.
Then I read my buddy Shaun's latest blog post, here. It struck me that history is a chronicle of the day to day events which taken together within the context of the time might seem to make some sort of coherent story or narrative.
But what if history is nothing more than the people in charge making colossal mistakes which get people killed and make other people in charge angry enough to pursue courses of action which wind up with more people dying and massive changes to the ebb and flow of society?
It seems to me that we have spent much of human history attempting to perfect the process of who gets to be in charge that will result in less of us common folk getting slaughtered and maimed.
Hereditary princes don't work. You might get a good one every now and then, but they all let it go to their heads eventually and most of them just suck at being in charge. Dictators don't work, left or right, they're just insane bullies who want to be in charge just because that's what power hungry insane people want. Having a whack job in charge is always a bad idea.
Also seems like our modern political system doesn't work all that well either. The people who want to run for office and want to be in charge are typically people you wouldn't trust to watch your dog over a long weekend.
I suppose some day we might get it right. But we've been at it for thousands of years. While things have improved, somewhat, it's neither consistent nor widespread.
Yes, history is what happens when the people in charge screw up. Big time.
Not a happy thought, but perhaps it's the way we're designed. Your thoughts?