15 January 2009

The Fatuity of Hope

I'm told it was Gustav Flaubert who said (presumably in French) that:

Our ignorance of history makes us libel to our own times. People have always been like this..

I am inclined to interpret this as saying: we forget that our forebears' future was as uncertain for them as our future is for us today. We conveniently elide the context that even though we now know how things turned out for our predessors and now see that history as inevitable, for them that same future was a mystery. It puts me in mind of another worthy quote the source of which I have forgotten and am too lazy to track down, that goes something like:

You might as well study history. The present is too complicated and nobody knows the future.

There is enough recognisable truth in both these statements for most people to see that they can help us make some sense of our world. It's a pity that those who model our climate future and allocate our economic resources don't have more regard to such sentiments. More of us might then have more realistic prospects of living lives that are prosperous. Instead deluded experts, enabled by the power hungry and moral scolds, continue to believe in the infallibility of their own intelligence and diligence to fashion a better world according to their constantly varying partial prescriptions.

The bias of the present will always be with us, even after the poor become prosperous and death and taxes are abolished. We will always want to assert our own time in history as significant. The logic of perspective tells us that the odds of our brief sliver of time being in any way interesting or significant to future generations are spectacularly remote, even in the short span of recorded human history.

It is hard when listening to the latest climate scold imploring us that now is our last chance as humans to prevent future catastrophic end times, not to be agog at the monumental arrogance and spectacular shallowness of such calls. Even more remarkable though is that this self important yearning for significance is given credibiltiy. Why are these prophets of doom not treated with the same indifference and mild contempt as other millenial obsessives who parade the streets with signs saying "The end is nigh." ?

Why do we so grossly distort our view on ourselves with this craving, this hope, that we are in fact significant, even when we are conscious of its fatuity?

. So go Obama. He might just be our times only real hope for a glimmer of significance in future histories of the present, but for the most slight of reasons: the colour of his skin. His comprehensive back sliding from his promises and his adoption of a cabinet of old time Washington insiders and a staff of Chicago political allies, has already confirmed how outrageously audacious were his representations that there was substance to his claims that we could hope that he would be an agent of change.

What fatuous crap the statements he made in his election campaign have proved to be already.

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