Friday, October 21, 2016

Maybe you "can't go home again". . .but you sure don't have to keep traveling in the same stupid direction.

"You can't go home again"

Thomas Wolfe, from the novel by the same name.*

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

Adulterated version of a statement by George Santayana.**

"You are going home again."

Holscher's First Law of Human Behavior

The other day (actually quite a few days ago now), I published this rant:
Lex Anteinternet: How dense we've become. Denver Topless Day, How g...: This is, I'll confess, a full blown rant. Which means, perhaps, that I shouldn't publish it at all.  If I do, it means I've o...
Since that time I've published what might perhaps be an ancillary rant on a related topic.  And I've had to endure and endless number of political debates and Facebook posts on the current election, a lot of which are based on assumptions of a necessary straight line progression from point A to point B, with perhaps the only question being where point B is, although it's pretty evident that a lot of the debaters aren't very aware of where point A was.

It's time to rethink a lot of this.

It might at first blush (assuming that modern Americans are capable of even blushing, given that a sense of decency has declined to shocking level that the "cow town" city of Denver Colorado now features stoners on the street (and airport) and an annual Topless Day) seem that Denver Topless Day, local baloonification surgery, and political debates have nothing to do with the express purpose of this blog, as related in our very first post.  In that, of course, we claimed:
The intent of this blog is to try to explore and learn a few things about the practice of law prior to the current era. That is, prior to the internet, prior to easy roads, and the like. How did it work, how regional was it, how did lawyers perceive their roles, and how were they perceived?
But maybe it actually does.

As readers of this blog know, this blog focuses on the period of about 1890 until about 1920, although it strays a lot. Recently there's been a lot of threads on the year 1916 (which are on point, I'd note) which is due to the centennial of the Punitive Expedition.  Indeed, this year has featured a lot more posts than prior years, and in no small part due to that centennial.

One of the purposes of the blog was, as noted in the first post, was to look at life a century ago. And in doing that, we've learned a lot about that era in a way that we wouldn't necessarily have known otherwise.  I can't say that it's become on obsession, but once you learn stuff its hard to ignore it.  And it's hard not to draw conclusions and make some comparisons.

Now, I have no intent of romanticizing the past, which I've posted about before. The past wasn't really all that romantic and it had plenty of problems.  In 1916, rather obviously, there was a titanic problem in the works in the form of World War One, which any way you look at it is a war which doesn't really leave a person feeling all that nifty about it.  What was it about?  Even now, there's lots of answers to that question, but there's no real agreement on any of them.  Yesterday, as a recent example, we learned of the tragic loss of life on Lake Erie in a storm, much of which can be attributed to nonexistent, nearly, weather reporting in that era combined with a complete lack of ship to shore, or ship to ship, communications.  Those men died alone, as nobody could have known what was happening to the.

Pretty grim.

But we also have to admit that in some ways the past compares very favorably with the present, and there are definitely lessons to be learned. . . and applied.

Santayana actually said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"  That is undoubtedly true and there's plenty of evidence of that.  Some, or Americans any way, are fond of quoting Thomas Wolfe in the fashion quoted above, which came from a novel (making the utility of the quote at least somewhat questionable).  His actual expanded line, from the novel is:  "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."

Well, maybe you can't go home again (or maybe you really can, in part). . . but you sure don't have to keep going in the same stupid direction.

 Straight line to somewhere, but where?  History doesn't have to work this way.

That often seems to be the lesson that people take away. That is, the opposite one.  In other words, if you can't go home again, which may not be an accurate statement in the first place, you have to keep on keeping on in the direction you are going.

Even if you don't like it.

And there's plenty of evidence that people actually aren't all that keen on the direction that the country and society is heading.

The country was never prefect by a long shot but what we can seemingly tell is that people did like the slower and much more rural aspect of American society in prior eras. As we've gotten away from that, and have been told that we had to, we've developed what seems to be a national psychosis.  Depression is rampant, a large number of Americans have to be medicated just to tolerate their daily lives and work lives.  Estimates are that up to, and even over, 70% of Americans don't like their jobs.  And it also seems fairly clear that the decay in social standards, which is encouraged by the political left on the country,  has not liberated anyone, but rather made quite a few miserable and many more confused.  The Justice Kennedyesque Utopia promised to be around the corner, hasn't been.

Huh. . . Utopia wasn't there. . . but maybe its off these tracks?

We're like the polar bear at the Denver Zoo.  It knows that Denver in the summertime isn't the high Arctic and there's nothing you can do to fool it.  Even putting in your employee cafeteria and exercise room isn't going to do it, just as it isn't doing it for the bear.

I'm not picking on the Denver Zoo.  But it knows that this isn't the Arctic and this isn't where it's supposed to be.  But maybe we know that a little too?

And yet we keep on keeping on in this direction.

We really don't have to.

There's no reason that, in 2016, we need to keep this direction going.  We don't need to become more urban. We really don't have to have an ever expanding population in order to support the old, an endgame which has a curious result at some point, and require people to be ever and ever tighter packed in terminally same cities. We really don't need to keep favoring larger and larger centralized entities over smaller and more local ones.  We don't really need to pretend that people don't have an ingrained natural nature, and that, in our imperfect world, many of us don't quite match it, but ignoring it in the name of diversity or equality is going to bring perpetual personal and connubial bliss.  We don't have accept that everyone everywhere can, or is even capable of, defining a personal reality that's separate from, well, reality.

We just seem to assume that we do.
Well, we don't have to.

And we shouldn't, the evidence seems clear, as its pretty clear that the Humanistic Millennial Age will, in fact, not be arriving.  And indeed, we can at least suspect that those prior generations at some point, perhaps in the era we focus on here, or perhaps slightly later, might actually have been more content, at least while not fighting in wars or struggling on sinking ships.

But it is also clear that to do nothing, is to elect to keep traveling the same direction we already are.

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