Forks in the road of history

With the benefit of hindsight, the road we took to get to this point can look straight and obvious, even if it didn’t seem that way at the time. The way in which choices, opportunities, apparently random connections and the like become the story of your life is something you can only see by looking backwards. It should be obvious that history – personal or on the grand scale – only makes sense in retrospect, but there are less obvious implications that are important.

When we look backwards, we see the path walked; the line from then until now. In hindsight, it looks like a line. All the things that didn’t contribute to it seem less important. The choices not made, the options discarded, and all the little things we did and said and had a go at that led to nothing of apparent import. When we look back to make history stories, all the asides tend to seem less relevant. What we’re looking for is that story of how we went from there to here.

There may be all kinds of consequences in terms of what we lose, but there’s a reliable one in terms of how we tell the story and how we understand it. With the path from then to now apparent to us, ‘now’ looks inevitable. It becomes harder to imagine we could have gone the other way. That we are here seems to validate all of the choices that brought us to here, or to prove that everything before was inevitable. Here we are, history has happened and because we are where we are, it is foolish to think any of it could have gone differently.

There are a lot of people in the past who still influence us, whose beliefs included the will of God and predestination. If you think everything must happen in line with God’s plan, then you look at the past and see the clear line of intent. I think that influence dominates how many of us tell stories – that we see the line of clarity. I also think that life lived, and the trajectory we follow is not inevitable. I think it’s important to look at options, for chances to rethink the whole direction and for different ways of understanding all the stories we carry.

In terms of history, I believe we have a major fork in the road before us. Are we going to become wholly corporate in a world ruled by big business? Huge international trade agreements that give companies the power to sue governments if their profits are harmed, seem to be taking us that way. The growth of giant companies, and the rising wealth and power of the 1% suggests an inevitable trajectory. But it’s not inevitable, and we can choose differently. Many of us are uniting through an array of campaigning groups around the world to fight for human rights, to resist ecocide, to challenge over climate change and to resist the direction our collective path seems to be taking us in. We could win this.

If we let go of the idea that history went the only way it could have done, we can think a lot more flexibly about the present. If we let go of progress narratives, and watch out for ideas of predestination, then we don’t have to go with the apparent flow, we don’t have to be washed away by someone else’s story. By changing how we see the stories of the past, we can imagine the future differently.

I’ve read a fair bit of radical history. I’ve read about resistance, and apparently futile fights, and things we didn’t win, and I see in there not the failures of the losing side, and not the people stood on the wrong side of history, but an ongoing thread of not accepting that we have to go where we are told to. There are options. A neo-feudal world of warring corporate entities is not necessarily our future.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Forks in the road of history

  • Leeby Geeby

    While I believe that the dystopian outcome for humanity is possible I believe it’s far from inevitable. The greater part of the cultural forms that humanity has been attached to have are already significantly dissolved, we are just still far too saturated by our old perceptual values to comprehend the sheer scale and speed with which the changes that have already taken place. The shift in power balance between the old regimes of industrial elites and the people at large — in favor of the people, is greater than at any time in history, people just can’t grasp it fully because it is not happening within any cultural pretext that we are even remotely familiar with. We barely even have a language capable of articulating the changes. The hardest part for people to understand is that change is happening without the need for formal organizational or institutional structures and so from a certain perspective they remain invisible, although they are very much present.

  • Leeby Geeby

    The work of author Clay Shirky in particular his book called (here comes Everybody) on the phenomena of social media and internet activism, was extremely useful in helping me to make sense of these changes. The book blew my mind. I highly recommend it!

  • Leeby Geeby

    Another book in that vein on my highly recommended list is Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Two extremely important books on the dialogue of the evolutionary power of technology on human society and conciousness.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    The important part of the battle is not who wins, and who loses, but that the battle continues, and people do not ever give up even when the fight seems impossible and doomed to failure. Nothing creates the urge to revolt than trying to enforce and maintain the status quo . The status quo might survive longer if they did not try to enforce it on everyone.

    Do enforce it on everyone, and the revolt soon builds to high pressure ad revolution soon happens. The same is true with the the new status quo. Enforce it, and the resistance begins.

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