Eschatology or linear Progress? What is history? The world of Humanity is divided by two views of the nature of history, the one being static, that there is an end of time for Man, and that this time is a temporary and transitional state of being that leads to a non-temporal state, existence outside of time; the other being that history is linear, unlimited, and possibly progressive. One is intuitive, the other rational.
How do we consider our time and time itself? That question's resolution determines much of what our lives will be. Until the rise of merchantile capitalism roughly 500 years ago there was no question. Now there is, and to decide where we stand we must ask hard questions of ourselves. What is the purpose of Human life? Is it life lived for another extemporal existence? Is this all there is for us in our lives? Is there a plan designed by extemporal intelligence, or are we the designers groping blindly but rationally?
The branches of these questions lead to puzzles for most of us. For the vast majority of the history of Human existence and still for the vast majority of Humans today themselves, the questions are not interesting. There is God, a godly plan, and there are people who have little or no say in the design. Priests and imams decide the ways of Humans in relation to God or Allah or whatever. Man lives and dies and goes on. History itself is merely a continuation of the same basic trial of Humankind. There is no Progress possible. There is a final prophet, Mohammed, according to Muslims, with the final message for true believers, and that's roughly that till the end of time. To question the nature of time and history is to confuse oneself and risk atheism. To ask uncomfortable questions is to raise doubts about the right order of the revealed religion, a bad thing, and one that leads to the questioner being subject to capital punishment in Islam. Technology might change but there cannot be Human of historical Progress. Man is created and is forever the static being of the beginning though in multiple form. History is circular. Things change but not Man. There is no history, only events.
But some of us stare rapt into the blue screens of death, and we ponder the possiblity that there is a linear history, one not bound by, insh'allah, creation and design but one determined by Humankind in struggle against ignorance and assumption.
Below we have two very short and accessible pieces on the nature of History. What you decide about the nature of History defines not just the course of your life but in company with others the nature of our societies.
The conclusion, that he sees himself as an anointed agent of divine providence, seems inescapable and it is alarming in the extreme. The notion that one is on the right side of history is dangerous not only because it breeds irrational belief in the correctness of one's own intuitive judgment but also because it prompts megalomaniacal decisions and policies inimical to the political and constitutional tradition of the United States. The historicist fallacy that "history" is an entity on a linear march has bred gnostic ideologies that find it easy to murder those who are deemed to be on its "wrong" side. Sooner or later this mindset results in the destruction of the over-expanded, over-extended bearer of the divinely appointed task.
A piece of pulp fiction by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in 1898, when followers of the charismatic fundamentalist leader Muhammad al-Mahdi tried to establish a theocracy in Sudan by revolting against Anglo-Egyptian control, captures the contradiction at the heart of contemporary Islam. Called TheTragedy of the Korosko, the book is the story of a small tourist party to Upper Egypt, who are kidnapped and held to ransom by some Mahdists, and then rescued by the Egyptian Camel Corps. (I hesitate, as a Francophile, to point out to American readers that there is a French character in the book, who, until he is himself captured by the Mahdists, believes that they are but a figment of the British imagination, to give perfidious Albion a pretext to interfere in Sudanese affairs.) A mullah among the Mahdists who capture the tourists attempts to convert the Europeans and Americans to Islam, deriding as unimportant and insignificant their technically superior civilisation: "'As to the [scientific] learning of which you speak...' said the Moolah; 'I have myself studied at the University of Al Azhar at Cairo, and I know that to which you allude. But the learning of the faithful is not as the learning of the unbeliever, and it is not fitting that we pry too deeply into the ways of Allah. Some stars have tails ... and some have not; but what does it profit us to know which are which? For God made them all, and they are very safe in His hands. Therefore ... be not puffed up by the foolish learning of the West, and understand that there is only one wisdom, which consists in following the will of Allah as His chosen prophet has laid it down for us in this book.'"
This is by no means a despicable argument. One of the reasons that we can appreciate the art and literature of the past, and sometimes of the very distant past, is that the fundamental conditions of human existence remain the same, however much we advance in the technical sense: I have myself argued that human self-understanding, except in purely technical matters, reached its apogee with Shakespeare. In a sense, the mullah is right.
But if we made a fetish of Shakespeare (much richer and more profound than the Qu'ran, in my view), if we made him the sole object of our study and the sole guide of our lives, we would soon enough fall into backwardness and stagnation. And the problem is that so many Muslims want both stagnation and power: they want a return to the perfection of the 7th century and to dominate the 21st, as they believe is the birthright of their doctrine, the last testament of God to man. If they were content to exist in a 7th-century backwater, secure in a quietist philosophy, there would be no problem for them or us; their problem, and ours, is that they want the power that free inquiry confers, without either the free inquiry or the philosophy and institutions that guarantee that free inquiry. They are faced with a dilemma: either they abandon their cherished religion, or they remain forever in the rear of human technical advance. Neither alternative is very appealing; and the tension between their desire for power and success in the modern world on the one hand, and their desire not to abandon their religion on the other, is resolvable for some only by exploding themselves as bombs.
Source: www.city-journal.org City Journal Spring 2004
Left dhimmi fascists, in common with Muslims, deny the progress of history. Though the Left claims to be 'progressive' it is not so in fact. Marxist theories of the end of history culminating in Communist utopia, or Lenin's whithering away of the state, or Hitler's Thousand Year Reich, or the cyclical Mayan calander, or Neitzche's eternal recurrence are all eschatological. Name one and it is anti-profgress, though one might argue that ones social programme is forward-looking in terms of Human equality. That's not progressive history. The Progressive is linear. All else is fascistic. There are some postive things to say about that. Over the course of the life of this blog we will continue to look at the nature of these questions. We welcome your contributions and comments.
For now, we must return to the blue screen of death to find more and newer insights into the nature of our time.