Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Events That Do Not Matter And Events That Do

 One of the things that is coming to fore as I an working through the small introduction to Anglo-Saxon history which has turned into its own research project is the inability of individuals to properly assess the actual impact of current events in their time.

Time and time again in my reading, events (mostly battles in this case) occur and are considered to be of major importance. In some cases they are:  the battle of Mons Badonicus (circa 500 A.D.) bought the Romano-British the breathing space of a generation, but also concentrated the invading Angles, Saxons, and Jutes into a small area that became totally Germanized unlike most of the other barbarian invasions of Western Europe at the time, which flowed over and through the population, becoming a thin elite class which was subsumed into the existing population.

Or the battle of Brunanburh (we are not quite there yet) in 937 A.D., in which the King of The English engaged the Kings of Strathclyde, Scotland, and the Norse Kingdom of Ireland.  In the literature at the time, it was felt to be "The Deciding Battle of England" - yet a little over a hundred years later, the entire Anglo-Saxon kingdom and its ruling class were overthrown by Norman invaders.

One could argue that the Concert of Europe (1815) may not have fully played out until World War 1 (1914-1918), or World War I did not fully play out until World War II (1939-1945) or that any of the events that were current even five years ago have played out to their logical conclusions.  In my lifetime I have seen the end of the Cold War, but still live within the framework set up by it; the final implications of it may not be fully visible until well after my death.

There are events that really do change things, of course:  the defeat of the Vikings by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Ethandun (Edington) in 878 A.D. really did change the course of history (had Alfred lost, the likelihood any Anglo-Saxon kingdom would have survived would have been much smaller). The defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 really did change Western (and Eastern) Europe.  The Russian Revolution of 1917 really did change everything about the Russian state as did the Chinese Revolution in 1949.  Sometimes one can look an event and say very clearly, "This changes things".

We are awash in media and news these days: 24/7/365 updates, if one wants them.  And one can spend their time running through nothing but news cycle after news cycle, only to discover after the fact that the news cycle had absolutely no impact on things whereas some event that was not even on one's radar turns out to be a significant development.

It is a hard balance to hold, this looking forward and back and to the sides all at the same time while trying to keep one's own life on track and moving forward towards the plans one has set in place.  The only advice I can constantly remind myself of is that while events local, national, and international have the ability to impact my life, the only thing I can truly control is my own reactions, both emotional and practical actions.

If history teaches one anything, it is that the world has always been a troubled place.  And as to the impact of current events on the future, one can look to that paragon of wisdom, Yoda:  "Always in motion is the future.  Difficult to see."

We can see the immediate impact of events, but can only see their long term impacts as we live through our days, twenty-four hours at a time.  That, too, has not changed since before the time that history was recorded and "the future" became a thing.

17 comments:

  1. Nylon123:53 AM

    Unfortunately, there are any number of folks out there trying to predict what will happen at any given time, especially in the financial sector. Indeed, Yoda had the right of it.

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    1. Nylon12, it is quite a cottage industry anymore. Strangely enough, those that do not make the correct predictions seem to fade away, only to re-appear with any memory of the previous predictions.

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  2. Big Circles, Little Circles, it was explained to me. Big Circles are beyond my ability to affect. Little circles like my friends and family I can affect.

    Big Circles affect what happens in the little circles of my life. So, I give them a weather eye observation. Ignoring a squall line bearing down on my homestead isn't a good idea. So, I do what I can in my little circles calling my friends about it as I shuffle the critters back into shelter and secure loose tools.

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    1. Makes sense, Michael. I also think we are too short term in our vision - to your example, we prepare for this storm but assume that that weather will revert back to normal, not remembering it is Winter and more bad weather is likely to come. Only in Spring can we call Winter "done".

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  3. Filthie5:39 AM

    Interesting thought.

    I might tend to disagree; I wonder the exact opposite… if we are not becoming desensitized to living in a society at an existential inflection point. Consider the shenanigans in our politics, the failure of our churches, the lunacy of our media, the stagnation of out arts and literature, the inversion of our morals and ethics, the deteriorating military, our dying economies…eventually major failures just elicit a shrug and that’s it.

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    1. Hmmm. I will return the "interesting thought" Glen. I can agree that this may also be a thing, as I see it evidenced in my own life: at some point, I stop caring about the outcomes of current events simply because I see (thanks to that ever useful thing, history) where it is likely to end up. At that point, it becomes a matter of preparing for the thing after this thing.

      That said, I would still posit that we confuse current events with actual world changing events. A few qualify; the rest are simply historical and cultural myopia.

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    2. Filthie2:26 PM

      You may be right, TB, but I just can’t resist being a dink about it! ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Consider WW1. It all started when some obscure, no-name, inconsequential archduke got assassinated by some forgettable lunatic from a subversive, long dead secret society.

      By that metric, Pete F can conceivably stub his toe, fall down the stairs, roll out into the street and get run over by a steam roller…and set off WW3! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ‘

      I suppose history can support both our mindsets…

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    3. Glen - In one sense you are certainly right: it was an assassination of a political heir (neither the first nor the last) by a no name individual from a largely unknown political society. On the other hand, it was also the unfortunate culmination of Bismarck's foreign policy, itself indirectly crafted by the Concert of Europe. There was a lot of tinder lying around that only needed a match.

      While I am hopeful Pete is not responsible for the beginning of World War 3, a low chance is not the same as no chance at all...

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    4. Was it though? My readings blame the elaborate systems of imperialism and alliances whereby a minor inicident with a minor player could drag everyone into a conflict that no one wanted... kinda like what is happening in the Kraine right now.

      That is the other fascinating aspect of our history... it all depends on who you listen too. Ask modern pundits about Donald Trump... half will tell you he was the best thing since sliced bread, and the other half will tell you that he hung upside down in a cave during the day and ate babies and puppies at night. We see the same thing going on with Caligula and his horse. Was Caligula really nuts? Or was he just using a novel way of expressing his contempt for his rivals in the senate. Was he both? Ancient history looks to be the same endless pie-fight that modern times are!

      Errrrr... sorry for hogging your blog! I will let you get back to it!

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    5. Glen, you are not wrong - there was in fact a very elaborate system of alliances that were waiting for one thing to push everything into motion - which Franz Ferdinand's assassination did. Once the Central Powers Treaties were invoked, the Entente Powers responded. Mobilization plans, long made, were put into motion and while everyone was apologetic about the mobilization, no-one walked it back. In that sense, the tinder was there waiting to burn.

      History is always partially a perceptive field - to your point, it depends on what survives. To your example of Caligula - we are missing Tacitus' writings on those times for example (the books are lost) - what insight could he have offered us? We had a stellar view of Justinian the Great through Procopius and his history of his wars and architecture - except that in the Vatican Archives in 1632, a previously known but undiscovered work (The Secret Histories) described a very different Justinian. Which version is true? Perhaps both - after all humans are complicated creatures and can be sinners and saints in the same person.

      And we are all square - history is fun!

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  4. There is a reason why history can only be written by those looking back towards our past. Our roads are littered with the wrong predictions of those who tried to predict our future based upon current events. Even those who write about past history still get edited when the context of the future plays out.

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    1. Someone (as usual, probably Abraham Lincoln on the InterWeb) said that time (change to history here) can only be understood as we look back but only lived as we look forward. Perhaps in that sense, we are always living out some events of the past - while others simply went nowhere.

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  5. Anonymous7:42 AM

    We have one constant in life and that is War or skirmishes or undeclared wars. Born during WWII then Korean, Viet Nam, Gulf, Afghanistan and now Ukraine. For my lifetime I think that's enough. What else is my reality but war. Throughout history has anyone or anywhere lived in peace for at least 100 years. America, Europe, Middle East, Africa?

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    1. The simple, answer, of course is no.

      In the Roman Republic, the doors of the Temple of Janus were closed in times of peace and opened in times of war. At least from the recorded history, the times it was closed were much less than the times it was opened.

      Or as OldAFSarge often points out quoting Plato, "Only the dead have seen the end of war".

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  6. One thing that frightens me about the present is the complete lack of any real journalistic scrutiny of so much that appears in the MSM. My particular bugbear is the free pass that the media give to all of the ludicrous climate models - not one of their predictions have come true in more than 30 years of trying, but no-one calls out the Emperor's New Clothes.

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    1. Thirty years of trying??? This climate baloney has been foisted upon us since the SIXTIES and prior!! Only recently was it tweaked to be the "whatever whenever" crisis it's portrayed to be now. If it rains it's "climate change." If it doesn't rain it's "climate change." As with most things, if you watch it long enough, you'll se what you want to see or are told to see... Like I said; baloney...

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    2. Will - One thing that Americans seem especially prone to is historical forgetfulness. We cannot remember what happened five years abo, let alone 30 or 60 or 2,000.

      I defer to Pete as my memory of such discussions only possibly goes back forty years - but yes, I do recall the "We are Freezing" covers on the magazines. The fact that this is not actively discuss says a lot more, I suspect, about the reasons for why controlling people to meet whatever climate emergency is then imminent rather than any actual climate emergency...

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