Friday, November 8, 2013

Reflections on History in Response to a Friend's Comments

You're correct; history is a social construct which is ultimately forced to lie. To explain is to simplify, and to simplify is to lie. We pick the particular narratives we wish to tell (or accept our narratives from the structures and information around us,) and then pick the events which fall into our narrative tales.

And yet babies, bathwater: there are broad trends, changes, things that come and go; the Roman Empire was once a thing, and now is not; we can speak of the spread of technological innovations across continents and the planet; etc. To ignore broad trends simply because of outliers is also a lie. There are fairly discreet waves of human migration which show up in archaeological, historic, and genetic records. The Vikings, IMO, are simply outliers in the European record; they were not part of a broader European social movement, but a local Viking one. Their exploits in Greenland and North America were not known much (if at all) outside of their colonies, did not inspire any wider action, and ultimately failed. The Age of Exploration, by contrast (symbolically kicked-off by Columbus,) represents a massive global population migration.

The European migration is not really exceptional as a migration per se, except that technological advances allowed it to happen rapidly, and that it was recent and involved many of our ancestors. (Original comment was directed toward a European-descended person living in a former European colony.) But in the history of migrations it is just that, and it is over, and other migrations are now happening, and the population of the world is always changing and re-combining and we are all the products of a great many different folks who've come before us.

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