[Archival from 2006 but still, in light of recent events, worth repeating.]
If your life on the web is running too s l o w, if your browsing and grazing at this site or that is just b o g g i n g d o w n, what do you do?
Like any good cybernaut, you look for the "techno-fix."
There are, of course, many fixes to find. New connections, new computers, new hard drives, new browsers, new plugins, and more. But the first thing everyone should do is to take the cure common to all cyberspace slowdowns. You click on your browser menus and tell it to "Clear History."
"Clear History" works wonders for your cyberlife. As you move within the web, your History grows, and the more History you hold the slower your web brain, your browser, thinks and acts. Thinking slowly and acting slowly may be wise in life, but it takes the zip out of your online drive.
When you "Clear History" your browser forgets all the places it has been, all the things that it has seen, all of what it has learned. All that bitsludge is wiped away and your browser's internal brain is made as smooth as a baby's bottom, as blank as a goldfish's brain. Things run faster, you get loaded more quickly and will probably stay loaded longer. You flash but you don't crash. Why would you? You've "cleared your history."
I probably didn't have to tell you to "Clear History." You knew it. Pretty much everyone knows it. But this better browsing tip seems, like many other dubious cyberspace insights, to have oozed out into the real world, into the world dimensional.
And when 2D goes 3D there's always a problem.
Applying cyberspace notions to the world at large, like believing the Mapquest is the territory, is usually a mistake, but people, being people, are always eager to make new mistakes. After all, "cyberspace" explains so much, doesn't it? Cyberspace has become the new paradigm and controlling metaphor of our age, supplanting the use of the computer as the controlling metaphor in the last quarter of the 20th century, much as the idea of the "clockwork universe" caught on at the dawn of the Enlightenment as the Age of Reason was driven forward on the escapement of the highest tech of that time, the clock.
As humans, we prefer that our "things" define us. It is always easier to explain ourselves through things than to explain ourselves outright. If mistakes are made, well, "Things didn't work out."
Of course, during these intellectually eviscerated times we can look back on the clockwork universe of the Enlightenment as a time when giants walked Europe's Cathedrals of Thought; Newton, Descartes, Voltaire, Montaigne, Kant, Hume, Jefferson.... the list is, as you know, still dominant though it be mainly male, all dead and very white. They all rose up in the age of clocks but they, in a real and metaphorical sense, wound the clocks. They "had" time and they would never "Clear History."
As much as these founders of our world valued time, they valued History more. Out of that time and that History, the Enlightenment swept across the world. When that wave receded it left many gifts on these shores, not the least of which were "The Declaration of Independence" and "The Constitution of the United States."
The Declaration and The Constitution: These two artifacts of history were the quintessence of the most revolutionary ideas to arise in the mind of man since .... not fire or the wheel, but previous... previous.... long before... since standing up on the hind legs.
Standing up happened before we began to become what we are now.
Standing up happened before the ancestors of who we are were what they were.
Standing up was, in that time long before the dream time, the most revolutionary idea life had had since the eye.
Standing up on the savannahs of Africa gave you something the other animals didn't have. It gave you the high ground.
Standing up you could reach the low-hanging fruit and see down where the prey hid among the high grass. Standing up let you see other animals that saw you as prey. Standing up above the grasses let you see out across the plains of that savannah.
Standing up gave you the long view.
Standing up was the start of your story. It gave you the long view out towards the horizons, the horizons that you would walk towards over the long epochs until you were man and then, when you finally received the First Light, more than mere man the scavenger. You became man the hunter; you became "that paragon of animals"; a blend of the satanic and the divine, knowing both the Will of God and your own Free Will. Which is when you found -- in a New World, among a myriad of thoughts within your remembered history -- the thoughts that became, in that time and of that place, the Declaration and the Constitution. And from these thoughts, expressed in these ways, you discovered, for the second time in your long history, fire.
In the same way that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is the revelation to the ear of a single, great thought, so the Declaration which began the American Revolution, and the Constitution which codified and expanded on it, are the revelation to the mind of a single, great thought: All men are created equal and henceforth and ever after must live free or die.
With the creation and ratification of those documents, the American Revolution became, and has remained, the chief export of these states to the world. The Revolution that began here with those documents continues today well into its third century as the most successful revolution in the affairs of man since Christ walked and died upon the earth. In a very real way, much to the distress of millions here and abroad, the American revolution is cojoined and inextricable from the continuing revolution of Christianity which seems either to lead it on or follow in its train.
"America" -- by which I do not mean the United States but that greater embodiment of the two most powerful ideas of History, "Christianity & Freedom" -- is to those who stand against it, within and without these states, a terrifying presence. It terrifies them because it is, as once we sang it, "a terrible swift sword."
"America" should terrify tyrants of all creeds. "America" means the finish on Earth, once and for all, of all that is not free. Not soon, and perhaps not for some time to come, but in the end the American idea, if not America itself, will prove to be as unstoppable as man standing up on his hind legs.
You say you want a revolution? Here it is and here it has been for more than two centuries. And it is not over.
The Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and all the wars that have been fought and all the men that have died to found, sustain, advance and defend them, have many things in common for all the differences that arise around and within them. Chief among these is that they do not ever "Clear History."
Now the entire enterprise has again come up against another great idea that burns in the minds of men, the idea of submission and slavery; that all men are created to equally submit to an unchanging theology that recognizes only the will of a patriarchal god, and preaches that the human will can only find its freedom in a constant, repeat five times daily, submission to an omnipotent caliph who has decreed the way of all things, now and forever, world without end always.
It is an ancient idea, an early-medieval cult of the Old Testament, made new by the disastrous totalitarian and collectivist experiments of the 20th century in which "Slavery is Freedom." Like the religion of Freedom embodied in and carried forward by the American Revolution, this religion also does not "Clear History." Instead, it imprisons man forever within a "Stopped History;" a history that stopped before the coming of the escapement clock; a stopped history that finally was stopped in Europe with the fall of Grenada in January of 1492. In August of that year Columbus sailed out from Palos in Spain and took his three ships westward. For Islam, history had stopped in the same year America's began.
More than 500 years later, Freedom faces its ancient enemy once again on a battleground that lies hidden across the globe. Like all ideas that set fire to the minds of men and die back to become a root fire smoldering deep underground only to flare up when the fire wardens and watchmen are withdrawn, Islam is resurgent.
Islam thrives where men are oppressed either by governments or by economic systems that sustain ignorance, intolerance and exploitation beneath the trappings of democracy -- from Beijing to Mexico City, from Russia to Rwanda. As a religion, many tyrants are pleased welcome and sustain Islam, especially when those tyrants come draped in the robes of the mullah.
Islam is a religion created to congeal and control the masses by removing, through rote learning and repetition, any idea that Freedom can be found outside of submission. Unlike the West which finds, again and again, that History can have no end, Islam finds that History does end, long ago, and the only task or "Restoration" in front of it is the restoration of that ancient age so that, at last and to the relief on many, History can have a stop in the steady state that is Islam.
Like Freedom, the release from History is another ancient yearning in the soul of man.
How happy it would be for most if History did not keep happening, if all things -- no matter how confining -- would simply stay the same from sunup to sundown, all through the night, from birth to death. What a bright world it would be if there was, at long last, a single system, a bright Utopia, in which all men were finally agreed and reconciled. How fortunate that endless age in which there was, finally, One World in which, through the infinite mercy of a perfect god or a perfect state, everyone had what they needed supplied by those with the ability.
This was the impulse that filled the global abattoirs of the 20th century whose bloody shadows are still seen today in the Third World, notably wherever the forces of Islam are predominant.
The Collectivist promise and pursuit of the Perfect World perfected only death. Its monuments, when not denied or paved over, are everywhere to be seen on the planet. It is a thing of such recent History, one so terrible that it you would think it could not be easily "Cleared" by people who are the pure products of education in the West.
And yet we see, in our current political malaise, that there are many among us in these states who "Clear History" on a daily basis in order to keep their dark dream of a perfect world, a single world, a utopian realm, alive in the clear light of day. It is, as you can see today, even possible for these people to "Clear History" of a videotape of a woman having her throat cut and head severed in the name of Islam and to announce, yet again, that it is a religion of peace. With "Clear History" all erasures are possible.
This automatic ability to "Clear History" is a curious phenomenon. Something that is quite new.
Today's "Clear History" is not the "Revisionism" common to the Marxist, Leninist, and Maoist of old, where history was remade with the destruction of texts, the alterations of photographs, the burning of books, and the issuing of the Party Line of the day to the faithful and the enslaved. "Clear History" is a complete and immediate blotting out of history en masse. It is accompanied by a careful retention of a fixed number of "historical facts" in a Curiosity Cabinet of Argument found in a dusty chamber filled with monuments to aged intellect; a go-to place where the only events of history worth keeping are those that buttress a reality that exists nowhere but must surely, in some future perfect day, come to exist everywhere.
For when you "Clear History" one of the things that go away in the real world are the books. And then you are left, not with History Books but that other ubiquitous element of cyberspace existence, Bookmarks.
The History of your browser tells me where you have been and what you have seen, but your Bookmarks tell me who you are and what you believe.
Mark Twain remarked, "You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is." Bookmarks are the corn pone from which your 'pinions are baked, but if you have the kind of soul that has run "Clear History" on your life your 'pinions are not likely to have any foundation in the long history of Freedom, but only yearn towards a Utopian tomorrow that never knows.
Much of the current disunity seen in our politics arises between those who ran "Clear History" in November of 2000, and those who saw History return with a vengeance in September of 2001.
One group is determined to deny History, expunge the Declaration, and shred the Constitution in pursuit of a utopia that's buried in a global network of mass graves. Another group are those who believe in the American idea and are determined let this new birth of freedom work its way across the world. Absent a defining historical event of global significance, this twain shall not meet. There is, of course, a third group of people who want to merely get on with their happy world untroubled by History, either cleared or present as a clear and present danger.
This last group is exemplified best, in my mind, by the young man who works as a night checker in my neighborhood market. He's bright, quick, genuine and affable. He's anything but dumb and is just passing through the market job on his way to other, larger things. I like him and have taken to a kind of banter with my frequent forays into this handy store. Saturday I was picking up something and we got to a bit of quick conversation in which I happened to quote the old saw of "Those who don't remember history are condemned to repeat it."
He replied, "Oh, I don't know anything about history. I never paid any attention to it."
"Well, you should," I said, "because history is paying attention to you."
I don't think he got it, but I'll still give him one of my history books the next time I'm in for a quart of milk. Twenty years of schooling and he's got no History to clear.
You've got to start somewhere.Posted by Vanderleun at July 21, 2012 11:04 PM | TrackBack