“History must repeat itself because no one was listening the first time.” – Woody Allen
Remember in the 1960’s when Bob Dylan sang that “the times they are a changin'” and John Lennon and Yoko said that “war is over”? Some of us naively believed them. We were young. We did not know any better. We assumed they must be right.
The ideas from the ’60s may have been at least partly drug-induced or maybe they came from nineteenth-century writers like Hegel and Marx who believed that human social evolution followed a ‘dialectic’ process. As it pertains to humankind, the idea is that humans learn from history and reach progressively new levels of understanding and, as a consequence, better behavior. We evolve as a species. It’s like Richard Simmons, the 1970’s fitness guru, (and French author Émile Coué) used to say, “Every day in every way, we’re getting better and better.”
Marx, writing in the 1840’s even before the American Civil War, believed that at some point in the social evolutionary process people would abandon the idea of personal property. No one would own land or wealth and governments would no longer be needed. There’d be one worldwide commune of selfless people, no need for weapons, no government and everyone would live in peace.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s this idea caught on. Remember the song “Crystal Blue Persuasion”? The lyrics were
A new day is coming,
People are changing
Ain’t it beautiful, ooh, ooh
Crystal blue persuasion
And then there was “Imagine” by John Lennon. He sang:
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
The Fifth Dimension thought this new world would come about as a result of astrological planetary alignment leading to The Age of Aquarius:
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Planetary alignment or not, is there any evidence of improvement in the human race over the past 50 or 60 years? Well, there was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and there has been vast improvement in the state of blacks in the U.S. But, how about human nature? The videos of the 2020 George Floyd riots show scenes of the most uncivilized behavior the U.S. has ever witnessed or at least recorded. The arson, sucker punches, kicking innocent bystanders while they lay prostrate, looting of businesses…it was all shall we say “unevolved” behavior. The rioters were mean, angry and surely would have murdered more people if they thought they could get away with it.
So, humans have not evolved, at least not the humans in the videos. In fact, it’s quite likely the race as a whole has not evolved even a little. People talk a good game, but actions are still the same as ever. There’s no peace, no harmony, no brotherhood (personhood) of man. It’s more like fighting, cheating, lying, back-stabbing. Even when politicians claim to be working on behalf of the disadvantaged, they use sleazy tactics to accomplish their ends.
Unlike Marx’s idea of a dialectic, we never seem to learn from history (because we weren’t listening). Since WWII, millions of people have been murdered in communist China and the USSR. Millions more have died in wars across the globe, including the Viet Nam War, the Korean Conflict, the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan and other conflicts around the globe. Yet, there are now thought leaders in the U.S., like the founders of BLM, who think communism is the answer to our problems. Is history being taught in our high schools and universities? Perhaps it’s a different version of history.
The U.S. was supposed to be the place where things would work out, where we would all follow the advice of Rodney King and “just get along”. Instead, we have never been more polarized politically and racially. Our thought leaders have told us that we are and have been conducting the great melting pot experiment or salad bowl or whatever you want to call it, an experiment to see if people of different religions, races, ideas and ethnicities can live together in peace. How’s that working? Given the history of mankind, is this a foolhardy experiment?
The recent history of the U.S. should remind everyone of the well-known quote from Ariel Durant, co-author of The Story of Civilization. “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” Sound familiar?
Those who are familiar with world history know that since recorded time, groups, nations and tribes have been at war with one another. Some of the wars were based on religion, some based on ideology, but most were fights over land, resources, or power. One group or individual wanted what another group or individual had. The list of European and American wars is long and while these wars were taking place there were other wars in Africa and Asia.
The Greco-Persian Wars (also often called the Persian Wars) were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire and Greek city-states that started in 499 BC[i] and lasted until 449 BC. Including the famous Battle of Marathon and Battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium.
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars between 264 and 146 BC fought by the states of Rome and Carthage. The First Punic War broke out in Sicily in 264 BC as a result of Rome’s expansionary attitude combined with Carthage’s proprietary approach to the island.
The Germanic Wars between various Germanic tribes, and the Romans and their descendants between 113 BC and 600 AD. The nature of these wars varied through time between Roman and Byzantine conquest, Germanic uprisings and later Germanic invasions in the Roman Empire that started in the late 2nd century. The series of conflicts which began in the 5th century, under the Western Roman Emperor Honorius, led (along with internal strife) to the ultimate downfall of the Western Roman Empire.
The Viking Wars (793–1066 AD) was the period during the Middle Ages when Norsemen known as Vikings undertook large-scale raiding, colonizing, conquest and trading throughout Europe, and reached North America. It followed the Migration Period and the Germanic Iron Age.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The term refers especially to the Eastern Mediterranean campaigns in the period between 1096 and 1271 that had the objective of recovering the Holy Land from Islamic rule.
Hundred Years’ War – fought over the right to rule France. from 1337 to 1453, waged between the House of Plantagenet and its cadet House of Lancaster, rulers of the Kingdom of England, and the House of Valois over the right to rule the Kingdom of France.
The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a long series of wars fought between 1494 and 1559 in Italy during the Renaissance. The Italian peninsula, economically advanced but politically divided among several states, became the main battleground for European supremacy. The conflicts involved the major powers of Italy and Europe, in a series of events that followed the end of the 40-year long Peace of Lodi agreed in 1454 with the formation of the Italic League.
The Thirty Years’ War was a conflict primarily fought in Central Europe from 1618 to 1648; estimates of total military and civilian deaths range from 4.5 to 8 million. Part of the ongoing contest between Austro-Spanish Habsburgs and French Bourbons.
The Eighty Years’ War or Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648) was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands.
The Franco-Spanish War of 1635 to 1659 was fought between France, and their Habsburg rivals in Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. Major areas of conflict included Northern Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, Catalonia, and the Rhineland.
The Wars of the Roses were a series of English civil wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose, and the House of York, represented by a white rose. Eventually, the wars eliminated the male lines of both families. The conflict lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487.
The Portuguese Restoration War (Portuguese: Guerra da Restauração) was the war between Portugal and Spain that began with the Portuguese revolution of 1640 and ended with the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668, bringing a formal end to the Iberian Union.
The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) was a global conflict, “a struggle for global primacy between Britain and France,” which also had a major impact on the Spanish Empire. In Europe, the conflict arose from issues left unresolved by the War of the Austrian Succession, with Prussia seeking greater dominance. Long standing colonial rivalries between Britain against France and Spain in North America and the Caribbean islands valuable for sugar were fought on a grand scale with consequential results.
The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence or the Revolutionary War, was initiated by delegates from the thirteen American colonies in Congress against Great Britain over their objection to Parliament’s taxation policies and lack of colonial representation.[m] From their founding in the 1600s, the colonies were largely left to govern themselves. With the capture of New France in the French and Indian War and confirmation of British victory through the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the British government was left deeply in debt, and the colonial legislatures vigorously disputed being forced to pay the expenses of the war.
The French Revolution began in May 1789 when the Ancien Régime was abolished in favour of a constitutional monarchy. Its replacement in September 1792 by the First French Republic led to the execution of Louis XVI in January 1793, and an extended period of political turmoil.
The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions. It produced a brief period of French domination over most of continental Europe. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict.
The War of 1812 was a conflict fought between the United States and its allies, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and its allies. It began when the United States declared war in June 1812 and ended in a stalemate when a peace treaty agreed to earlier was ratified by the United States in February 1815. While the war ended in a draw, both sides were happy with the outcome as the war ended, although indigenous nations are generally seen among historians as the real losers.
The Belgian Revolution broke out on 25 August 1830. The short-term influence was the outbreak of the French July Revolution one month earlier: Belgium had been attached to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, and a Belgian Patriot movement had emerged, campaigning for a written constitution that would limit the powers of the Dutch absolute monarchy and enshrine fundamental civil rights; the French July Revolt appeared to them to be an equivalent struggle to their own.
In France, the July Revolution of 1830 led to the overthrow of the Bourbon King, Charles X, who had been reinstated after the fall of the French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. In his place, Charles’ cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans was crowned as the first “King of the French”. It marked the shift from one constitutional monarchy, the Bourbon Restoration, to another, the July Monarchy; the transition of power from the House of Bourbon to its cadet branch, the House of Orléans; and the substitution of the principle of popular sovereignty for hereditary right.
The Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Springtime of the Peoples or the Spring of Nations, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It remains the most widespread revolutionary wave throughout European history.
The revolutions were essentially democratic and liberal in nature, with the aim of removing the old monarchical structures and creating independent nation-states. The revolutions spread across Europe after an initial revolution began in France in February. Over 50 countries were affected, but with no significant coordination or cooperation among their respective revolutionaries. Some of the major contributing factors were widespread dissatisfaction with political leadership, demands for more participation in government and democracy, demands for freedom of the press, other demands made by the working class, the upsurge of nationalism, and the regrouping of established government forces.
The Crimean War[e] was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which Russia lost to an alliance made up of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom, Sardinia and France. The immediate cause of the war involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Roman Catholics, while Russia promoted those of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Spanish–American War was an armed conflict between Spain and the United States in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to the U.S. emerging as predominant in the Caribbean region, and resulted in U.S. acquisition of Spain’s Pacific possessions. That led to U.S. involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately to the Philippine–American War.
The Boxer Rebellion was an uprising against foreigners that occurred in China about 1900, begun by peasants but eventually supported by the government. A Chinese secret society known as the Boxers embarked on a violent campaign to drive all foreigners from China.
World War I (or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1) was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously known as the Great War or “the war to end all wars“, it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated 9 million combatant deaths and 13 million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the related 1918 Spanish flu pandemic caused another 17–100 million deaths worldwide, including an estimated 2.64 million Spanish flu deaths in Europe and as many as 675,000 Spanish flu deaths in the United States.
On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, leading to the July Crisis. In response, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July. Serbia’s reply failed to satisfy the Austrians, and the two moved to a war footing.
The Russian Revolution was a period of political and social revolution across the territory of the Russian Empire, commencing with the abolition of the monarchy in 1917 and concluding in 1923 with the Bolshevik establishment of the Soviet Union at the end of the Civil War.
World War II also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world’s countries—including all the great powers—forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. In a state of total war, directly involving more than 100 million personnel from more than 30 countries, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in 70 to 85 million fatalities, with more civilians than military personnel killed.
The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro‘s revolutionary 26th of July Movement and its allies against the military dictatorship of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, and continued sporadically until the rebels finally ousted Batista on 31 December 1958, replacing his government.
The Korean War was a war between North Korea (with the support of China and the Soviet Union) and South Korea (with the support of the United Nations, principally from the United States). The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea and ended unofficially on 27 July 1953 in an armistice.
The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955[A 1] to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and other anti-communist allies.
Afghanistan War, international conflict in Afghanistan beginning in 2001 that was triggered by the attacks on the U.S. by Islamists on September 11, 2001.
The Iraq War was a protracted armed conflict that began post 9/11 in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein. The conflict continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government.
Are the current arguments in the U.S. today any different or any more high-minded than those that led to these wars? When the Persians attacked Greece 2500 years ago, they wanted to expand their territory and wealth. Who can blame them? The same can be said for the German and Scandinavian tribes that invaded Italy looking for better farm land 1900 years ago.
Black organizations like BLM want more resources, privileges, and recognition for their members. They want more power politically. Immigrants (legal and illegal) want more of what long-time citizens have. White people whose European ancestors immigrated to the U.S. over the past 250 years and built the industry, economy and government, like everyone else, want to retain their jobs and savings. They want to help their children gain admission to the best universities and obtain the best jobs. Can anyone blame them? Despite the Marxist-sounding rhetoric about oppression, oppressors, racists, supremacists, etc., the current situation in the U.S. is no different than any situation in history. The self-righteous-sounding rhetoric and the slurs are simply weapons used to coerce the opposition.
Democrats and Republicans fight each other not necessarily over what’s good for the country, but over control. Both parties want total power and control, yet both parties, in their own ways, are corrupt.
With all due respect to John Lennon, Tommy James, The Fifth Dimension, and Karl Marx, human nature has not changed or evolved since the war between Sparta and Athens in 400 B.C. and certainly not since the 1960s.