KLewchuk wrote: ↑Mon Sep 14, 2020 1:26 am
No material points of disagreement. What do you think is the ethical path forward?
Good question. Well, what would you say?
Personally, I think it's very simple. It's summed up in the axiom "Tell the truth."
The truth is that history has been pretty ugly, at times. And if we are in any good place now, it's been bought at the cost of making a lot of mistakes and doing a lot of things wrong. I think Hume is an important step in our intellectual history, though I disagree with him on many, many things. And I do not want to see him, or his mistakes, purged out of our memories. He is part of our history, part of the reason we are who we are, and are where we are.
Why would we do anything else? Indeed, why would anybody who professed to want to be "critical" of history want people not to know history? But that's exactly what they do.
Take the "black" issue. Is its cause well served if we pretend slavery and segregation never happened? Should we encourage today's young people not to know the South was Democrat and the North was Republican in the civil war? Do we want them to understand the origins of things like the KKK? Do we want them to know about life in Africa, and how the West Africans colluded with slave traders, and do we want them to know anything about the trans-Saharan slave trade, which was far larger, far more vicious and far more enduring, and killed far more people than the trans-Atlantic trade? Do we want them to know who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and where the "underground railroad" ran, and why. And so we want them to know about how African Americans got to the situation they're in today? Do we want them to know about Frederick Douglas, and the many other African-American success stories, or do we want them imagining that they are inheritors of a legacy of nothing but failure, powerlessness and abuse?
Keeping people historically ignorant is politically useful to them in the present: but it has nothing to do with liberation, or the betterment of black folks, or any positive way forward for anybody. And will they be more or less manipulable if we keep them historically ignorant?
I think the answer to that last one is why the PoMo crowd, the crit. theory set and the modern Leftists want to eradicate history. They can't manipulate crowds effectively with a complex and ambiguous historical narrative. They can only manipulate them with simple-minded stories of oppression, and can use those to gin up self-righteous, irrational rage. That rage can be directed to destroy the status quo, raze the ground, salt it, and then pray for the worker's paradise or the just society to spring from the sterilized earth. That's their plan, the only one they've really got.
But the truth is more complex, more nuanced, and less instrumental to the Left than that sort of myth-making. So they despise it, accuse all history of being hopelessly and utterly biased ("a story told by the winners," etc.), reject even the possibility of a partial or broken truth, and then use that as license to lie without compunction. They despise all history except the collocation of simple-minded canards serviceable to the Left itself, in other words, and have no conscience about using stories to delude the masses. After all, they tell you, that's all anyone has ever done anyway.
So we need to keep all of history. As much as we know. We can revise as we go, improving our stock of knowledge. We don't have to tell a static, singular view of history. That too would be mere propaganda. But the very last thing we should ever do is purge somebody like a Hume, or a Jefferson, or a Rodin, or for that matter, even a Hitler or a Stalin or a Marx from our historical memories. As wretched as they may have been, it's the impact they had on our own history that we cannot cut ourselves off from. That, we need to know.
So let Hume Hall remain Hume Hall. And when people ask, "Who was Hume?" we tell them. And when they ask, "Well then, why did people dedicate a hall to him," then we say, "Because people are sometimes fallible, and they have celebrated as many villains as heroes in our past. But most people are a mix, or neither. And we still need to know about all of our history."
That's the truth.