At some point after leaving the ivory tower of academia my consciousness began to expand and no longer focus merely on art, literature, philosophy and religion, the disciplines that have marked my existence and identity for over twenty years now. When you engage in these fields you learn about them more or less out of context, you are studying them alone, pulled from the river of history and politics, of culture in general as well, in which they were born and developed throughout time. Despite so much of art and literature engaging with historical events, you often have to do your own research for a fuller understanding of the period itself in order to provide background to the work of art or text. In my eyes, this is the great failure of academia when one decides to major in one of these areas: you are not required to take history courses or courses in the politics or culture of the age, thereby preventing you from obtaining a well-rounded, ultimately interdisciplinary, knowledge of the humanities and how history and politics as forms of culture shape the author’s or artist’s thinking and therefore the form and content of their text or art. The same can be said for philosophy and religion—in order for one to get a multidimensional perspective on these two powerful forces on society and civilization one must understand in context how they were born and how they changed throughout human history.
So much of the current existential and very real hate, fear, and anger that fuels the vast populations of several nations across the globe comes from a lack of knowledge on the many sides of the great divide that imperils the stability of the international order. All humans are born ignorant, and many remain ignorant whether willfully or because those who govern them wish it to be that way. That is why any vehicle that disseminates unbiased knowledge and ideas, any medium that does not spread mere worthless opinions or propaganda, is an ever-present danger to the fragile order and status quo that the political and financial elites have put in place from the dawn of civilization despite the numerous bloody cycles of oppression and rebellion that humanity has witnessed and participated in.
Newspapers, magazines, journals, TV and film, books, and the Internet have been censored and used as propaganda tools because the freedom of the press and the speech therein when not regulated or controlled outright by the state are a formidable threat to the order and controlled environment devised by those in power. There is so much misinformation and lack of information out there in the media and schools, so much propaganda dripping with ideological bias bloated with fear, anger, and hate of the other (itself grounded in the perception that this other is an existential and/or real threat to one’s survival as well as the preservation of one’s tribe and identity) and this is only a small part of what has brought us to the crossroads at which we stand today. It is this truth and the very real terror and anxiety in which much of the world is currently drowning that has brought me to my obsessive passion for history and politics.
From adolescence I have been relentlessly fascinated by creation and apocalypse (thank you Christianity), by the origins and ends of things. Hence my fervent interest in how we got to this pressing moment in the growing breakdown of the international order. If one wants to know how we got here, why this is happening, one must read widely and interminably in the field of history, not just political but social and economic as well, and read about the various political systems of governance that humans have been subject to since societies emerged millennia ago. This is not to say that this can ever be enough, or that the story is easily told in a handful of books on these subjects. What I have learned (much to my grave disappointment) in merely scratching the surface of things in these disciplines is that the national and world order has always ever been delicate and tenuous, and that there is a constant seeking on the part of those in power to not just preserve it but expand it, to ultimately bring all the nations of the earth into one borderless community with the fewest people in control at the top of the hierarchy. This cannot happen because it would destroy the many cultures and traditions that have survived this long, which emphasize the beauty of difference rather than the monotony of sameness that should never venture beyond any one country’s geographical borders. The richness of humanity is in its various cultures and beliefs, and one of its great evils is in the violent ignorance of any one system of governance, religion, or culture believing that it is the superior (and true) one under which all humanity should and must live.
This is the hazard and menace of all ideologies, which can and have bred fundamentalist, nationalist, and populist movements and subsequent civil and international wars when the masses are not accordingly educated in the inherent flaws of any ideology. Yet, many of these same ideologies have been used to create and perpetuate national, political, religious, or cultural identities that have served to unify the people. This is a positive thing until one of the groups begins to think and profess that theirs is the chosen one (whether sanctioned by scripture and religious tradition or some other type of authority) and begins seeking to dominate or eradicate all differing groups and beliefs they are founded on through violation and repeal of their rights or through imprisonment, genocide, and war.
The disintegration of the world order, what led to it, and the hyperawareness of such a reality via the juggernaut of the media and the Internet have shifted my consciousness irrevocably to see that the humanities ripped from the larger context of the narrative of history and the development and constant, yet often gradual, transformation of society and civilization is a deep flaw in the education requirements for those majoring in art history, literature, philosophy and religion. Studying these disciplines without the foundation of history in its many guises is a futile attempt at turning shadows into substance—it cannot happen. And this lack of history, which appears at all levels of learning, not just the university one, is one of numerous reasons how and why humanity has reached this ever-growing and deepening crisis point in terms of the international order.
When we are not taught the unbiased facts and truth of the history behind something, whether it be the birth of a nation, the decline and fall of an empire, or the origins of a religious or political system, we remain ignorant and cannot defend ourselves and organize revolutionary movements that will fight against the oppressors who seek to enslave us, eliminate our rights, and brainwash us with self-serving propaganda, all of which intend only to ensure their position among the elite, allowing them to hold on to wealth and power that is inherently vulnerable to disappearing because as with all things, they too are transient. Without full knowledge and understanding of the multiple layers and intricate workings of the corrupt, hierarchical order, how it was established, and how it maintains its monopoly on wealth and power we cannot hold the elite accountable and responsible for the decisions it makes that lead to disastrous consequences for the people they claim to represent because they do not actually serve the masses, only themselves.
As Madonna sings in her song “Iconic”: “If you don’t make the choice and you don’t use your voice / Someone else will speak for you instead.”
The true nature and form of a democracy is one in which everyone has the right to speak, to have their say, but it matters not what you think or believe if you don’t have a well-rounded, well-grounded perspective on what it is you wish to exercise your right to free speech about. Then and only then will you truly be listened to and heeded; then and only then will you begin to sway the minds of the people toward revolution against the powers that be. Then and only then will the elites be petrified, when they discover that the people have raised their voices in unity against the imbalance of power and inequality that has been forged for millennia under the inherently limited ideals and beliefs which have bound the people in ignorance and kept them from living a life of freedom and fulfillment and from seeing others as the same, as equal and deserving of the same rights and freedoms they have. This is why I have become so deeply passionate about history and politics and why I believe everyone should become invested in them, so that they can help move the revolution toward global peace and equality forward through knowledge, compassion, and cooperation. Knowledge truly is power, and Ignorance really never is bliss.