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Sethomas Sethomas is offline
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 05:29 PM       
Well, I think that's overwhelmingly true but it's not really the point, and I should have been more clear about that. I think that academic historians who have a required awareness of the totality of world history but they wrote their PhDs on a subject pertaining to a period where they focus their research and they subsequently get stuck in Medieval Studies, Classical Studies, Renaissance Studies, or whatever, they're pulled by an allure of a period but the first thing they have to learn is to dismiss the exceptionalism of the modern man. Regardless of what period of history you study, the path to modernity requires an admiration of one's ancestors as being equally creative and brilliant as man is today.

What bothers me (enough to write that post) is that the general public is completely unaware of this, by and large. Man in various historical periods is whitewashed negatively to fuel a sense of contrast and superiority for the common joe. The Romans are labelled as brutal and violent with special attention paid to the gladiatorial games as a way of quelling any introspective criticism about our own culture's fixation on violence. The danger comes in that the common joe who uses this argument writes himself out of any curiosity in how the Romans were far more skilled in dialectic politics and maintaining social order.

So what bothers me? It's not that our expert historians are wrong about everything, it's that everybody else is wrong about everything but they talk about it regardless. For me, what makes the present crises so frightening is that they don't accrue any historically-informed analysis because of an epidemic feeling that people have become immune to history. Nobody seems to pay attention to the fact that the first world is at risk of agricultural collapse, for example, because great nations only suffer starvation when they are inhabited by superstitious illiterate people.

I think that the Crusades are an indispensable cautionary tale about East/West cultural interactions, one that could have prevented much of the nonsense in which we find ourselves today had more people had a meaningful understanding of them. Popular understanding is that the Crusades were a grab for religious cultural hegemony in the Middle East, a campaign of conversion by the sword. It wasn't. It was a counter-offensive that took on religious overtones because there was otherwise no cohesive force between the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe, and they both had a vested interest minimizing Arab expansion. The Arabs were the belligerents and the Europeans were the loose cannons, but the financial and territorial concerns were so overwhelmingly definitive in the conflict that I find it extremely difficult to take out meaningful lessons about Islam and Christianity. All that being said, how frequently do armchair philosophers use the Crusades as definitive proof that religion causes violent behavior? Doesn't everyone feel entitled to using the Crusades to support their point about _____?
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