The Three Main Lessons of History

Posted by on Feb 10, 2013 in Humanity, Our Future | 0 comments

The Three Main Lessons of History

This week I have been contemplating what I consider to the main lessons of history that humanity should have learned long ago, yet are clearly still to be learned if we hope to survive and thrive into even to the middle of this Century. I believe that there are three such lessons. Accordingly we must collectively learn these lessons of history once and for all now or face the terrible consequences of what will be a fatal lack of wisdom at these evolutionary crossroads for our species. They are essential for our future and more essential now than ever before.

To learn these lessons requires collective maturity, wisdom, foresight and ‘acting today for tomorrow’, together with leaders who represent the interests of all humanity not just their ‘people’  (which today seems to primarily represent their own, their families and their supporter’s interests far above anyone else.)

Who do our political “leaders” truly serve today  Who speaks for the ‘people of the world’ now? Who speaks  for all humanity and our future? That is a most critical question today and the answer at present is ‘no one’ most unfortunately. That has to change and very soon if there is any true hope for humanity’s future .

The three major history lessons I am presenting arise from either man-made or natural threats to our societies and to our very existence in the year 2013. These lessons have been repeated often over the thousands of years of human history but we have yet to learn them beyond a rudimentary understanding today it appears. This is despite all the volumes of historical evidence from thousands of years of human societal activity and the definitive conclusions that can be drawn from that evidence.

We are by and large “distracted to death” by our popular cultures today. What is trivial is given the most attention and what is critical to all of our futures is given no attention whatsoever in our cultures and the mainstream media that underpins those cultures.  The Hollywood movie Dumb and Dumber from 1994 pretty much says it all too me. Yes we are and apparently becoming collectively dumber and dumber all the time these days! (And a sequel is now in the works of course. I’d call that one “Dumb, Dumber & Dumber Still”! )

Here are the lessons I posit we must collectively soon learn if we don’t want to go from species Homo sapiens to the extinct species Homo dumbiens – extinct due to a massive lack of wisdom, foresight and basic intelligence!

1. The first lesson is from our brutal history of massive violence (within our families, communities and societies) violent conflict between cultures, religions and peoples and outright war between states and nations. So it is our ongoing and often unchecked propensity for individual and collective violence that underpins the first lesson. See my blog War and Peace 2012 for my own analysis of the historic evidence on this major concern.

2. The second lesson is from the vast number of societies and civilizations who have risen and fallen before our current global society. This is the first ‘global society’ in history. Almost all previous civilizations and empires eventually fell to ruin usually through either unintended ecological destruction or by the unintended price of conquest. Both causes are of course often interconnected and reinforcing. Instructive examples are from the fate of the people of Easter Island and that of the Roman Empire which remains the primary example of an empire that ultimately implodes due to the unintended price of conquest and thus of empire itself. A great deal of modern day scholarship in determining the root causes of civilizational decline has appeared over the last few decades. I highly recommend two books in this area: A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright, and, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. The many stories of tragic civilizational failure and the few of successful responses is an essential primer for global citizenship and all our societies today.

3. The third lesson is the massively destructive forces of natural events such as super-volcanoes  earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis , etc. and of Cosmic events such as asteroids or comets striking the earth, coronal mass ejections from the Sun, gamma ray bursts from the Cosmos, etc. Much of our understanding of these planetary and cosmic events has only come from scientific study over the last 100 years or so and the evidence for their destructive potential is now extremely clear. Those large-scale threats include doomsday events which would lead to almost all life on Earth becoming extinct. An excellent overview of such threats is presented in the book The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction by John Leslie. 

To date on all three crucial lessons for our future, humanity has a very low and badly failing grade. Actually I’d personally give us no more then 10 out of 100 as a mark for learning them so far. We don’t seem to be paying attention frankly and our popular culture today reinforces that dramatically. And that corresponds to what I believe is less then a 10% chance of our global society surviving into the 22nd Century if we remain on our present path.

So will we remain stuck in elementary school or graduate at least to high school as we must and soon? What will it take to do so? I’ll present a path on how we can finally graduate in next week’s blog.

Thanks for reading. Comments are always welcome!

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