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Source: (consider it) Thread: Does the arc of history actually lead anywhere?
Russ
Old salt
# 120

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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:

I have been reflecting on a view from a geological and biological idea of progress and cyclic nature of things both: "time's arrow" (the linear progression) and "time's cycle" (how the past rhymes with or resembles the present, and patterns of history are repeated). Are you meaning more the time's arrow view?

I used to think history was cyclic. That peoples moved between three broad narratives:
- conflict against others perceived as evil
- investment in their own future prosperity
- altruistically helping others in need so as to make the world a better place.

When sated by the horror of war, they would reach a truce and a compromise abroad and focus in on achieving prosperity at home.
When materialism failed to satisfy, that would turn to good works and idealism.
And then acting on that idealism would bring them into conflict...

But I now tend to think it's too simple a model to explain much at all.

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

Posts: 3169 | From: rural Ireland | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Martin60
Shipmate
# 368

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Can you give an historical example of a nation doing that? I can't think of any. Ever.

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Martin60
Shipmate
# 368

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That wasn't a rhetorical question Russ, but I understand if it's too difficult for you, as my questions to you always are. Although for what rational reason I have no idea, something I'm missing in my impoverished intellect I'm passively aggressively sure.

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
# 13

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quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:
We persist in two myths: That what we have is better than what was before and that things will get better still.

If you need to be better, or for things to be better, you are not going to find happiness, or serenity.

True. But happiness and serenity are at times over-rated. I for one am grateful to the unhappy women who fought for the rights I enjoy that previous generations of women did not, and I feel an obligation not to serenely accept misogyny, racism, bigotry, etc etc.

And another vote from me for Steven Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature." I didn't know there was a sequel - thanks, Brenda!

quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
Coates is making the case that despite the narrative of constant progress on addressing American racism there's no reason to regard it as irreversible, especially given a fairly lengthy period (~1877 to ~1963) where a lot of the real progress achieved during Reconstruction was deliberately reversed.

Coates does not undermine Pinker's thesis, because he's not arguing with what Pinker actually says. Pinker's narrative is not one of constant progress. I'm sure there are people who would like to think progress is constant, but it seems all too obvious that it isn't. Moreover, Pinker doesn't argue that the decline in violence will automatically continue; he says that this is something people will have to choose if it's going to happen.
Posts: 24451 | From: La La Land | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Brenda Clough
Shipmate
# 18061

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You can argue that things are not better than they were before only if you take a relatively short view. Yes, the stock market dipped last week and I am poorer today than I was at the beginning of February.
But my opthalmologist is going to restore my eyesight by tidying up my lens with a laser. It will take five minutes. This was impossible ten years ago. Read about the Rev. Patrick Bronte's cataract operation in the 1850s, and shudder. No anesthesia, no antibiotics, no microscopes -- it was all by guess and by golly.
My orthopedist removed all the pain from my knee by using a big needle to draw out all the fluid that was causing the swelling. This was impossible a hundred years ago, you need an MRI to see what's going on in there. He also injected it with steroids (available only within our lifetimes) so I can walk again.
Look down. Right now, as you read this, at your hands. Are you at your keyboard? Sure you are, and you are looking at a screen. (We are not moved to the New Ship yet, so I know you are not looking at your cell phone.) Could you have done this thirty years ago? Maybe if you were a computer scientist. Forty years ago? Maybe if you were Bill Gates. Fifty? Only in movies, and your dreams.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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Martin60
Shipmate
# 368

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I must admit Russ, I'm really intrigued as to what you find cognitively difficult about my questioning your a-historical, apophenic pattern. Anyone would think that actually you don't have an answer. Just a projected 'feeling'.

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zogwarg
Apprentice
# 13040

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I remember being quite offended when one of my history teachers quoted (Karl Marx, apparently):
«L'histoire ne se répète pas, elle bégaie », History doesn't repeat itself, it stutters

At the time it struck me as being quite insensitive. Mostly choosing the word stutter, to describe the atrocities of history was a bit too dark.

But the true spirit of the quote I think is real, and the very purpose of the study history is mass self-improvement I hope.

Humans are biologically, and even culturally very similar to each other, but slowly and surely I think that as a society things ARE getting better.

Now my inner mathematician likes the phrasing very much, it makes sound like social justice, is an ideal which approaches an ideal asymptotically but can never reach it. And certainly, the meaning is an exhortation of both hope and work, to seek than (on earth) unattainable ideal.

My inner cynic wonders if the asymptote is way lower than true justice, and can only remain so. ^^

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What's a signature?

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Eutychus
From the edge
# 3081

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quote:
Originally posted by Zogwarg:
Now my inner mathematician likes the phrasing very much, it makes sound like social justice, is an ideal which approaches an ideal asymptotically but can never reach it.

Very well put! Or as Ursula Le Guin has it in The Dispossessed:
quote:
“To get from you to the tree, the rock has to be halfway in between you and the tree, doesn’t it. And then it has to be halfway between halfway and the tree. And then it has to be halfway between that and the tree. It doesn’t matter how far it’s gone, there’s always a place, only it’s a time really, that’s halfway between the last place it was and the tree — ”
And I suppose the rock of history finally does reach perfect justice at infinity - or, as the theologians have it, eternity.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Barnabas62
Host
# 9110

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I really rate "The Dispossessed". And the blessed Ursula K provides a gold mine of memorable quotes.

In the context of this thread, the slow, patient, work of the Ekumen in "The Left Hand of Darkness". is described as "vaguely benevolent". As a matter of history, the struggle between the powerful and the "vaguely benevolent" ebbs and flows, depending on where you look. It is as wrong to say there are no benevolent thoughts and deeds in the world as it is to say there is no malevolent exploitation by the powerful. The struggle continues to ebb and flow.

My faith informs me that benevolent thoughts, words and actions are a personal aid to the daily prayer, Your Kingdom Come. The final outcome will be that the Kingdom will come. When, how, that's a matter for God. I don't expect a straight line trajectory, or an asymptotic curve.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Gramps49
Shipmate
# 16378

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In my lifetime, I have seen the end of Jim Crow, the expansion of voting rights, the end of housing discrimination, the ability for anyone to receive a decent education, and the tenure of a black president.

But I would also have to say for every three steps forward we will sometimes take tow or even three steps back. We tend to regroup. But then we surge forward again The changes during the Obama administration were breathtaking. Who would have thought equal marriage would have happened so fast?

Consequently, there is now a conservative backlash.

Nevertheless, there are strong indications that we will see a breakout on a number of fronts when the Trump administration ends. Health Care, the #MeToo movement, Revamping of Collegiate Educational financing, even more gun control.

The Baby Boomers are dying off. The Gen X and Millenials are taking over the vanguard of Gen Z becoming voters.

Oh, yes, the long arch of history bends toward justice from my vantage point.

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Brenda Clough
Shipmate
# 18061

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Here from the Guardian is Steven Pinker on a podcast explaining why things are in fact slowly getting better.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

Posts: 6378 | From: Washington DC | Registered: Mar 2014  |  IP: Logged
Albertus
Shipmate
# 13356

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And here from the UK thinktank Theos is a very thoughtful critique of Pinker's latest book.

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My beard is a testament to my masculinity and virility, and demonstrates that I am a real man. Trouble is, bits of quiche sometimes get caught in it.

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