Monday, January 27, 2014

the revolving door

Pushing against the way official history is being made by and distributed is always a futile business. It is like pushing the wrong way against a revolving door. The very design of the door works against you. Of course, its builders claim that this design reflects the facts. It is a fact-based narrative. But this is only true to the extent that the narrative includes some legitimating facts. It excludes the inconvient, the outlier, and most of all, those incidents that it is too dangerous and upsetting to reflect upon. Those who do reflect on these things sometimes mistake the irresistable push back as an apocalyptic instrument, a conspiracy; they sometimes put too much stock on the outliers. But they are certainly correct that the narrative is not primarily fact-based, but rather a manner of manipulating facts to support a narrative whose motifs are already in place. The direction of the revolving door has been set. And the more people who pass through it, the more obvious it seems. After a while, though, maybe in say three hundred years, the resistors will get their chance. Revisions will be made. “New” facts will be discovered – or rather, will be promoted to key positions within a new narrative. Reflections will be made. By this time the door has gotten squeaky, it doesn’t push as well. Traffic has moved on to other doors. At this point some average person can actually push against and break the old door. What do you know, people will say, there weren’t any witches. What do you know, people will say, perhaps 500,000 Africans died in transit or on plantations in Saint-Domingue alone in the Age of Reason. What do you know, they will say, one of the impulses of the American  Revolution was that there wasn’t enough being done by the British to exterminate the American Indians. What do you know? But by this time the direction of the revolving dooor wil have become part of history – the way history is taught, the way expections for other parts of the story have been set. The French Revolution, for instance, had the terror, leading straight to the Gulag – a narrative repeated over and over during the Cold War and since - and the American revolution, in this same script, was the forerunner of moderate democracy. The slaves and the Indians will figure, at best, as a rediscovered sideshow, moral detritus.  

olivier blanchard and the free lunch: a comedy of errors

  The neolib economist Oliver Blanchard tweeted a very funny comedy bit, in which he played the part of “social democrat”. And he wrote: “As...