Historians, like journalists, are in the business of manipulating facts. Some use facts to tell truths, however unpleasant. But many more omit, highlight and at times distort them in ways that sustain national myths and buttress dominant narratives. The failure by most of the United States' popular historians and the press to tell stories of oppression and the struggles against it, especially by women, people of color, the working class and the poor, has contributed to the sickening triumphalism and chauvinism that are poisoning our society. The historian James W.
All history is mystory if it leaves out the causes of or for wars of aggression, slavery, misogyny, demonization, inter-ethnic hatreds; unnecessary fears, hopelessness, helplessness, misinformation, lack of education, etc.
And all or nearly all religions; its priestly classes, and most believers approve of that or even command it.
What all gods i know of hate and fear the most is the rise of a desire for political equality; without which we will not ever develop the democracy, justice, hope, interdependence, etc.
And it is these factors/actors of enormous power that CH does not include in his analyses; thus, does not adduce and elucidation.
And it is not money that is the FIRST CAUSE [it is a very useful tool; made by tool-makers] for all ills that befall us; the First Cause is our THINKING or the thinking of the priestly classes, their ‘holy’ books, and religious people.
It will be the critical approach to history that defines Trump and his self-obsessed, Nazi inspired, thievery type of, what he and the Republican party call, governance.
Historians who give praise to this would be king, will not be revered by their colleagues nor by those who might read the lies they write about this hateful monster in human flesh.
“History, n.: An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.”
I haven’t paid much attention to Hedges since his petulant attitude toward Bernie in the primaries. This is an excellent piece on the writing of history, especiallly his many quotes from a “true,” historian, and one I’ve admired for many years, Eric Foner.
I’m reading now “Unspeakable”, the first in a series of new books, and this first book is front and center Chris Hedges.
It is wonderful - a must read, and it addresses his dislike of Bernie Sanders, which I share, yet gives Bernie credit where credit is due, which I also accept.
Revisionist history is a theme I am always exploring - and, as a person of science, this is also the way of science - always searching for the truth - always willing to review one’s ideas in the light of new evidence.
Perspective comes - sometimes in a blaze of light, sometimes incrementally.
Right now Chris Hedges is leading the way - he is our Apache ‘Dreamer’ - a mystic who has perspective - who holds within himself, both from personal experience and hard study - the history of the tribe.
Real life, and the history which follows it, is messy, apparently by natural design, the natural world appears to exist and evolve on “The Borders of Order”.
Hedges is correct - our ahistorical stance distorts ruling politics into a dark system indeed.
Bring history into every political debate. It allows one to dispense with the endless pretentious bs that passes as worthwhile social commentary while repeating the same nonsense that has been going on for decades. Don’t worry - you don’t need memorize every date in detail - what we need is the clear meaning that arises from our dark history. Use that meaning to steer clear of the ‘centrist’ lies which still dominate discussions as ‘solutions’ and ‘progress’.
You’re exactly correct. The kind of context that you describe, however, is becoming nearly impossible because people neither read nor have the faculties to sort out (even their own) lived experience. Central to this all of is the miseducation system; but more importantly, theubiquitous use of social media as the primary means of both public and private discourse renders real human communication and memory nearly impossible.
It is no coincidence that the Idiot of Orange is the first president who “governs” via the Tweet. And, “the loyal opposition” is all A-Twitter coming back at his idiocy in kind, leaving their oligarchal and plutocratic bosses to count their billions and wage Permanent War, mostly because they can.
Excellent essay! Truth and truthful history requires an element of humility. That is something sorely missing among elite leaders and among much of the American population. We need to get off our high horses and walk a mile in the shoes of someone different than us - to understand.
We really do need to challenge the histories that have been given to us. Anyone who studies the JFK assassination knows that Kennedy was shot at from multiple directions, was hit probably five or six times and the shot that killed him came from the front. It is very doubtful that Oswald had any participation in the assassination. The shots that killed RFK came from behind and from below and close up - none of which would put Sirhan Sirhan as the killer of RFK. William Pepper has documented the involvement of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, the military, the Memphis police and the Dixie Mafia in the death of MLK yet we still have a building named after Hoover in DC. While we are getting a lot of information on Vietnam - has Ken Burns given us the full story of the Gulf of Tonkin incident or the movement of 1 million Tonkinese to South Vietman thereby destabilizing it? It is disturbing that Burn’s sponsors include Bank of America and one of the Koch brothers.
Three cheers for bringing down the confederate monuments. They can put some of them in a museum but they shouldn’t be on public display as a symbol of honor. These confederate battle flags should be brought down as well. The klan is a terrorist organization and should be treated as such. Before real change - comes the revolution of the mind and that is our responsibility - each of us - to free ourselves from the mental conditioning and false stories told to us. We are much like a dysfunctional family where the denials are starting to fall apart and some members are uttering words of truth. It is a time of great promise if we can break down these walls of lies that have enslaved our minds and trapped us for so long.
I don’t know - I think MAD magazine has done a very good job of portraying Trump in all his inglorious insanity. Can you really write much real history about Trump that does not appear to be part of a Theatre of the Absurd?
“The long historical memory is the most radical idea.”
Thank you again Chris, for elucidating and articulating the simple truths which controvert the false myths and narratives that our culture has inculcated us with since birth, and all who preceded us in this nation from its beginning. You never fail to inspire us to question. learn, and, hopefully, evolve into better citizens, thinkers, and human beings! You efforts are both needed and greatly appreciated.
I noticed at the Yankee Game this past Wednesday afternoon that there were people sitting through the anthem and they were not all black. I’ve been thinking of doing it and Boss Trump has just convinced me so I will now sit out the racist national anthem. From its third stanza:
“No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:”
The statues never meant that much to me as there are none to those I respect and admire the most in history. Pigeons best express my feeling about most of them by pooping all over them which also expresses my feeling about the U.S. and its empire.
I may be a subject in the U.S. Empire but I consider myself a citizen of the world and give allegiance to the only race, the human race.
Through practicing frugality, critically reading a lot, and by working for the non-profit NYC Health and Hospitals I was able to cast off most of the chains of mind and body that bound people in “exceptional” America.
As a socialist I don’t believe that any real change can come under capitalism. Protest, however, can serve the important purpose of educating people, perhaps the only way many people can get any real, critical, education.
Only dreams stay the nightmares
History is written by the so-called “winners”; history is never recalled, nor written, with a balanced open-minded impartiality nor with a true desire to account for all that occurred, good or bad,righteous nor deplorable. It is written as a means, often, to assuage the ego-driven desire to place one’s name, or nationality-or ones race- in a favorable light. History is, and probably always will be, truly a mystery. And Americans, in many ways, have a short memory. Especially when it’s convenient to “forget”
Distorted history resides in the textbooks used in parochial schools wherein the missionaries are lauded and their victims vilified: Native Americans and Hispanic people were mainly targeted. My parents put me in Catholic school until I rebelled in the fifth grade and was expelled after being “insubordinate” with a nun who was beating one of my classmates: I grabbed her stick and yanked it out of her hands and yelled at her to stop. She grabbed my hair and drug me down the hall to Mother Superior who expelled me on the spot. I still recall the bastardized history we were force fed…canonizing the priests. It was not until I took two classes at University in Native American History and read the incredible Francis Jennings book, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest that I came to know the full history of our nation’s cruelty. It took over ten years for Jennings to get it published because of its unassailable truth based in facts, oral histories, diaries, archives, and extensive research. A testament to Hedges and Foner’s statements about the perpetuation of myths.
How can someone say that “Racism” doesn’t relate to what’s going on today. It is mostly about that. Do we want black America circling their wagons once again and give us another dose of the “Black Power” movement? It is possible for someone like the Donald to start up a race war. A war we can’t seem to settle at the peace table. G
Your work is important - worthy and inspiring to me; I loved you the minute we (my now deceased dear husband - also a Presbyterian minister in NJ/NY area)
finished our introduction to you through our reading together of WAR…GIVES US MEANING. You seem to certainly bolster my hope and urge me on - at age 86. I am eternally grateful. I announce to all that I LOVE YOU! Keep on keeping on. Blessings be upon you in all ways. Love/struggle - as Lynne Stewart liked to remind her friends. Elizabeth Sarfaty, Malone, NY
The history generally presented in the US is the result of a well documented conspiracy. The Rockefeller, Carnegie and Guggenheim Foundations sponsored the academic careers of historians with amenable characteristics to paint a history that was favorable to the .01%. Among the historians that resisted them was Charles Beard, the author of “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States” 1913.
A summary of that conspiracy and others is in this entertaining and informative video.