The Best Lessons of History to Teach Your Son
What You Can Learn from The Lessons of History
“The first condition of freedom is its limitation; make it absolute and it dies in chaos.”
Blind allegiance to your ideology is a hill to die on. It is easy to say that we are ALWAYS in support of freedom, but pure freedom is truly anarchy and anarchy is the enemy of the freedom that we know and love. Few absolutes have real world practicality.
In order to preserve freedom and thus our way of life, we must impose necessary limits on freedom or risk losing it all.
“Probably every vice was once a virtue – i.e., a quality making for the survival of the individual, the family, or the group. Man’s sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.”
As mankind roamed the jungle and lived more as animal than man, our baser instincts were positive attributes that led to rise of civilization as we know it today. We were meant to eat as much food as we could get out hands on. In today’s land of abundance though, we must rise above our animal instincts and learn temperament and moderation.
At a time when the very survival of the human race was constantly in question, proliferating one’s genes was paramount to the future of humanity. It was commonplace for your children to not make it to their 18th birthday. Truths we take for granted in today’s soft society that is littered with safety nets to help even the simplest of humanity live a full life.
It is natural for us to lust after all the vices that are so condemned. Why? Simply because for millennia it has been hardwired into our DNA to seek such vices for the betterment of mankind. And overnight, genetically speaking, mankind was forced to reckon with the ramifications of a life of abundance. This is humanity’s new struggle: the lack of struggle.
“Utopias of equality are biologically doomed, and the best that the amiable philosopher can hope for is an approximate equality of legal justice and educational opportunity. A society in which all potential abilities are allowed to develop, and function will have a survival advantage in the competition of groups. This competition becomes more severe as the destruction of distance intensifies the confrontation of states.”
The rise of social justice is ultimately a fool’s errand. The relatively loud voice of the media that pushes this propaganda is balanced by the truth that society at large will still reject these outrageous and excessively progressive ideals of moral superiority. Ultimately nature’s law cares little for the feelings and idealism of people who’s lives are so soft and comfortable that they create problems out of thin air.
Civilization will allow even the most perverse and bizarre notions and abilities to have their shot, but capitalism will decide which of these will flourish and which of these shall perish. And given the rise of the global world thanks to high speed internet we see the world growing smaller and thus increasingly diverse.
“It is good that the old should resist the young, and that the young should prod the old; out of this tension, as out of the strife of the sexes and the classes, comes a creative tensile strength, a stimulated development, a secret and basic unity and movement of the whole.”
Left unchecked any ideology can become toxic and destructive. This balance of push and pull is what stabilizes our culture. For when the old held all the power, as was evident as the boomers pulled most of the voting power, the rise of conservative and traditional ideals were law. Now as the millennials outweigh the boomers in number, the rise of progressive ideals are taking hold. New progressive ideals such as legalization of gay marriage and marijuana are proof of this concept.
“As long as there is poverty there will be gods. Catholicism survives because it appeals to imagination, hope, and the senses; because its mythology consoles and brightens the lives of the poor; and because the commanded fertility of the faithful slowly regains the lands lost to the Reformation.”
Life may have grown softer and easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s gotten better for everyone. We all have moments where we get knocked down and there will always be those who are lost. Hope will always be a hot commodity. And there will always be merchants selling it.
And religious ideology aside, this should be seen as a net positive to humanity. Because it is hope that provides the fuel that leads to greater accomplishments, the willpower to keep going and more children to take the reigns in the future.
“The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.”
There is a common theme in this book, and thus in history, of balance. And as the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, it is constantly pulled to center. Each action echoes with eternal reaction.
“The rising bitterness of the class war left Greece internally as well as internationally divided when Philip of Macedon pounced down upon it in 338 B.C., and many rich Greeks welcomed his coming as preferable to revolution. Athenian democracy disappeared under Macedonian dictatorship.”
Power abhors a vacuum. And infighting leads to resentment as well as weakness. Despite the obvious negative effects of allowing an unknown enemy to conquer your people, this can be seen as preferential to the familiar rival taking control with their antithetical set of ideals.
“Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign. Educations has spread, but intelligence is perpetually retarded by the fertility of the simple.”
The detriments of a life made safer and easier is the impact nature has on the future of humanity is lessoned. That being said, there is no evidence nor guarantee of success or intelligence from those who’s parents were so, and vice versa. In fact, it was quite common for the ultra-successful to raise children who blow the family fortune.
“If war continues to absorb and dominate democracy, or if the itch to rule the world requires a large military establishment and appropriation, the freedoms of democracy may one by one succumb to the discipline of arms and strife.”
The argument for the greater good can lead to the very opposite of what it claims to be. For in seeking global peace and squashing potential threats, the rise of a global military force can lead to death and destruction that rivals or even exceeds the threats it purports to prevent. A paradox of mass destruction.
This leads to a costly problem in terms of lives and literal financial burden put on a society. It is no secret that in America, taxes are significantly higher to support the military industrial complex. A system that accounts for 16% of the budget, or put another way: 1/3 of the world defense budget.
“If our economy of freedom fails to distribute wealth as ably as it has created it, the road to dictatorship will be open to any man who can persuasively promise security to all; and a martial government, under whatever charming phrases, will engulf the democratic world.”
The rise of meme warfare is a direct result to how effective memes are. And of course, the same is true of a charming phrase. Just look at the effectiveness of Make America Great Again and Yes We Can. Ultimately what most people want it to get their piece of the pie and when they are getting slivers and crumbs, the masses grow increasingly susceptible to political snake oil.
“In every century the generals and rulers have smiled at the philosophers’ timid dislike of war. In the military interpretation of history war is the final arbiter, and is accepted as natural and necessary by all but cowards and simpletons.”
I’ll let Robert Heinlein answer this one with his excerpt from Starship Troopers, “Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms.”
“If the Founding Fathers of the United States could return to America, or Fox and Bentham to England, or Voltaire and Diderot to France, would they not reproach us as ingrates for our blindness to our good fortune in living today and not yesterday – not even under Pericles or Augustus?”
The advantages and opportunities available to the average person are unmatched compared to any point in history. Any opinion otherwise is skewed with rose colored glasses. There has never been a time of more decentralized power with regards to starting your own business, building an influence or simply being heard.
“If education is the transmission of civilization, we are unquestionably progressing. Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.”
If you’re enjoying what you’ve read be sure to check out Lessons of History available here.
In closing, those who learn from history give mankind it’s best opportunity for a better life. At some point everyone will ask what the meaning of life is. On a personal level, that is a question as complicated and unique as any question man has ever asked… but the answer is 42. As for the global scale of the meaning of life? To pass down what truths you can gather to the next generation so that they can be a little smarter, a little stronger and a little better.
“If a man is fortunate he will, before he dies, gather up as much as he can of his civilized heritage and transmit it to his children. And to his final breath he will be grateful for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that it is our nourishing mother and our lasting life.”