May1, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)


History, like the press, misrepresents life because it loves the exceptional and shuns the newsless career of an honest man or the quiet routine of a normal day.

Will Durant 1944

I have been reading in Will Durant's eleven volume set, The Story of Civilization. I have finished what Durant calls "The Age of Reason" in the middle 1600s. The recurrent themes of the previous 2,000 years were wars, slaughters of people, assassinations, ruthless tyrants, and a few leaders who actually benefited the people they were leading. People slaughtered one another because they had different ideas about what books (Bible, New Testament, Koran) were important and what happened to them after they died. In other words, people seemed to be no different then from the way they are now. Does that surprise you? It shouldn't; lions, pussycats and elephants are no different from the way that they were many thousands of years ago, so why should people have changed?

I would guess that we still have roughly the same percentages of idiots, fools, thieves, greedy people, power hungry people, good people and wise people; you name it. It was the same at the beginning of history as it is today. When I read in the newspaper about people who are greedy for money and power and that they are supported by the majority of the population, I can only conclude that 2,000 years hasn't improved people one bit.

Customs have changed some. For one thing, people are no longer burned at the stake for heresy or witchcraft nor are they hung, drawn and quartered. In our country and Europe, people are rarely imprisoned solely for expressing their opinion.

Some things have changed radically. Massive amounts of back-breaking physical labor are no longer necessary; we have machines that can do almost anything, with some guidance. Farming is no longer the back breaking job that it was. Farming used to be a rough life, which led lots of people to leave the farms for the cities and mines where they thought that they would find something better. Instead they were often employed in boring, soul destroying jobs for a pittance.

We now have thousands of bombs and each one of them can destroy an entire city and leave it and the surrounding areas dangerously radioactive. People who shouldn't be trusted with a weapon more powerful than a sling shot, now have automatic rifles and guided missiles.

On the credit side, most people in industrialized countries have ample food, good homes and live better than they have at any time in history. They have the assurance that if they are ill, that they will be taken care of and that they will not be left destitute in their old age.

My conclusions about history, as it applies to the present is the same as Will Durant's(1965) conclusions about the progress that was made in 16th century England: "The Industrial Revolution began to transform everything but man."

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